How to Write an Affidavit for Family Court
Family court affidavits are legal documents that provide information and sworn testimony to the court. Affidavits serve as evidence and help judges make informed decisions about issues like child custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support, and property division.
Drafting an effective affidavit requires understanding the legal requirements and processes. Follow these steps when preparing an affidavit for a family law case.
Determine If You Need an Affidavit
Not every family court case requires affidavits. They are typically needed when you want to:
- Provide testimony or evidence to support or oppose a motion.
- Offer new information not previously presented to the court.
- Share your side of the story or perspective on issues.
Affidavits are commonly used for temporary motions, like requests for temporary custody or support orders. They may also be needed when significant time has passed since previous court orders.
Understand Affidavit Requirements
Affidavits must follow strict legal requirements to be accepted as evidence by the court. Keep these key guidelines in mind:
- The affidavit must be your first-person testimony.
- You must sign the affidavit under oath and penalty of perjury.
- A notary public must witness your signature.
- Stick to factual statements you know to be true.
- Provide as many details and examples as possible.
- Avoid opinions, hearsay, and legal arguments.
- Use clear, simple language.
- Follow all format and filing requirements for your court.
Talk to Your Attorney
Consult your family law attorney before drafting your affidavit. He or she can advise if an affidavit will help your case and provide guidance on the information to include.
Your attorney can also review your affidavit and ensure it meets all legal standards before you sign and file it with the court. Having an attorney assist with your affidavit is highly recommended.
Organize Your Thoughts First
Before writing, take time to carefully think through what you want to communicate. Make an outline of the key topics and points you need to cover.
Refer to any court orders, legal documents, records, emails, or other evidence you want to reference. Gathering all this information beforehand will help you write a more focused, organized, and persuasive affidavit.
Follow the Proper Format
Affidavits must follow a specific format. Though requirements may vary, most courts want affidavits to include:
The heading indicates the parties, case number, and court information at the top of the page.
The caption should read “Affidavit” with your full legal name underneath. For example:
Affidavit of Jane Doe.
The first paragraph should identify who you are, your relation to the case, and that you are providing voluntary sworn testimony.
For example: “I, Jane Doe, am the petitioner in this child support case. I make this affidavit based on my personal knowledge of the facts stated herein and am competent to testify to these facts if called as a witness.”
The body presents your testimony in numbered paragraphs. Be sure to include:
- Only factual statements you know to be true
- Details, examples, dates, records, and evidence that support your testimony
- Information organized logically by topic
The closing paragraph should state that you swear under penalty of perjury that your testimony is true to the best of your knowledge. For example:
“I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of [Name] that the foregoing is true and correct based on my personal knowledge.”
Leave space for your signature, printed name, date, address, and phone number.
Leave space at the end for the notary public to sign, stamp, and date your affidavit when you sign it in their presence.
Write Clear, Thorough Testimony
Aim to make your testimony as detailed and complete as possible. Helpful tips:
- Provide context and background. Give a brief overview of your relationship, living situation, children, work, and other relevant history.
- Be specific. Include key facts, dates, locations, records, and examples that support your side. Avoid generalizations.
- Avoid opinions or emotional language. Stick to facts you can prove.
- Tell your story. Explain what happened from your perspective. Give enough details that the judge understands.
- Respond to key issues. If addressing custody, thoroughly explain your parenting role and relationship with the children.
- Create separate paragraphs for different topics. Cover topics like financial matters, domestic violence, substance abuse, and infidelity in separate paragraphs.
- Double check accuracy. Make sure your dates, figures, calculations, and other facts are 100% accurate. Errors could undermine your credibility.
Review Evidence You Reference
Any evidence mentioned in your affidavit should be included as exhibits. If you refer to records, emails, text messages, police reports, financial statements, or other documents – attach copies to your affidavit as numbered exhibits.
Cite each exhibit in your testimony. For example: “Attached as Exhibit 1 is a true and correct copy of the police report from my Domestic Violence Incident on April 15, 2019.” Only attach relevant evidence. Your attorney can help assemble exhibits.
Have Your Affidavit Witnessed and Signed
You must sign your affidavit in the presence of a notary public. Do not sign until you are together with the notary. Bring your unsigned affidavit and valid photo ID. The notary will:
- Witness your signature.
- Confirm your identity.
- Complete their notary statement and signature.
- Stamp or emboss the affidavit with their seal.
This legally verifies the affidavit content under oath. Follow your notary’s instructions carefully to avoid errors.
File Your Affidavit Properly
Submit your original signed affidavit to the court following their procedures. Typically you must:
- Make copies for all parties in the case.
- File the original with the clerk’s office.
- Have copies served on the other parties.
- Keep a filed copy for your records.
To ensure proper filing, consult your local court rules or speak to the clerk. Meet all deadlines associated with your motion. Late affidavits may not be admissible.
Utilize Affidavits Strategically
Well-prepared affidavits can positively influence family court outcomes when used strategically. Potential benefits include:
- Persuading the judge to see things from your perspective.
- Providing key details the judge may not already know.
- Strengthening your credibility as an organized, responsible party.
- Introducing evidence that complements your legal case.
- Countering or responding to affidavits filed by the other party.
- Securing a favorable court order or judgement.
Discuss affidavit strategy with your attorney from the outset of your case. Time and submit your affidavits wisely for maximum impact.
Preparing affidavits for family court carries weight and legal implications. Take time to thoughtfully draft your testimony. Strive to make it compelling, factual, and complete. Following proper procedures shows respect for the court. With your attorney’s counsel, affidavits can effectively share your side of the story and help obtain just outcomes. Approach affidavits as an opportunity to inform judges and advocate for yourself and your family.
What if I make a mistake in my affidavit?
You must correct mistakes by filing an amended affidavit with the court before your hearing or trial, notifying the other parties. Never just cross out or write over errors.
Who can be a notary public?
Notaries are state-appointed professionals authorized to verify signings. Many banks, legal offices, and stores have notaries on staff. Friends or family cannot notarize your signature.
Can I write my affidavit in my native language?
Yes, but you must also attach a certified English translation signed by the translator. The English version would be used by the court.
What if I later realize my affidavit contains incorrect information?
Notify your attorney immediately if you realize any factual errors. You may need to file a corrected affidavit or other remedial measures.
Can I include confidential information related to domestic violence or CPS investigations?
You must follow all court rules and confidentiality laws protecting sensitive information. Consult your attorney about the proper way to reference such issues.