Should the Judge in Your Custody Trial See That Video?

Should the Judge in Your Custody Trial See That Video? by Joshua Katz

{3:00 minutes to read} Is it a good idea to present video recordings to a judge as evidence in a custody trial?

There is a famous saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Consequently, many people think it would be advantageous to present an audio or even a video recording to the judge, portraying their spouse as a bad parent.

However, 9 times out of 10, the recordings clients bring to me would backfire if we tried to use them in court. Either the recordings do not present the spouse as badly as my client thinks, or they make the filming parent look equally bad. Most importantly, people do not realize that judges abhor the idea of recording children.

If you see a mother screaming at her child in a video, the judge will know that the recorder had been running for months and this particular clip only shows the worst of the worst moments. The court may question if there are other clips of the father screaming at the child, as well. The judge will wonder what happened immediately before the recording started — was the husband (in this case) yelling at his spouse or children? Did he do something to instigate the conflict, knowing the camera was running?

Are recordings useful in other situations?

There are situations in which I do advise clients to record, such as pick ups and drop offs, or if there are allegations that the spouse is becoming aggressive or quarrelsome in front of the child.

There is no problem with having a recording device running from the beginning of the pickup to the end, so the judge can see the full interaction between parents when a child is transitioning. If a spouse did happen to catch an incidence of aggression or violence toward the other spouse or toward the child, that would be worth a thousand words.

Clients should be very careful about what they give to their lawyer.

If a client brings in audio or video recordings and I get served with a discovery demand, I have to turn them over. If I have ten recordings — six favorable to your case, and four unfavorable — I may have to turn everything over to opposing counsel in discovery.

A custody case is all about what is portrayed in the court and what is going on inside the home, but one must be careful about audio and video recordings. However, photographs or videos of a happy child during a visit are ALWAYS good evidence! Positive images are very effective in custody cases.

What recordings would you consider bringing to court in your custody case?


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