The Rules on Hearsay
Broadly defined, hearsay is a statement—either oral or written—made outside the court provided as evidence to prove the truth of the matter. Under the New Jersey rules of evidence, hearsay is inadmissible in court in most cases. It is generally considered to be too unreliable to serve as evidence in a court of law. But the hearsay rule has numerous exceptions and exclusions. Claiming hearsay to exclude a statement made outside of court can make or break your case but is a matter of knowing how to recognize hearsay and using the rules to your advantage.
What Is Hearsay?
First, let’s take a closer look at hearsay. As stated above, hearsay is a statement made outside of court. The legal definition of statement is broad. A statement can be something declared orally, put in writing, or something implied through nonverbal bodily conduct. Further broken down, “writing” is not limited to words on paper but can be numbers, sets of data, pictures, drawings, or even photos.
Judges will analyze a statement claimed to be hearsay by asking whether it:
- Was an asserted statement (i.e. asserted to be true)
- Was made by a declarant out of court, and
- Was offered to prove a certain fact was true
If a judge decides a particular statement is hearsay, that statement cannot be held up in court as fact.
The Role of Hearsay in Family Law
In family law cases, hearsay is frequently called into question. In private matters involving families, children, and home life, hearsay is often a powerful piece of evidence. Parties to family law cases sometimes try to offer statements made out of court as evidence, such as things said in a dispute or emails that were meant to be private. In these cases, attorneys can challenge a piece of evidence if it is hearsay. If the judge agrees, the statement cannot be admissible at trial. And in cases involving matters as sensitive as child mistreatment, one statement can make all the difference.
The exceptions to the hearsay rule are too numerous to review here exhaustively. If hearsay might be a potential piece of evidence in your case, discuss your situation in detail with a New Jersey family law attorney. Whether you are facing custody proceedings or child abuse allegations, hearsay can carry significant weight if it is admissible as evidence, which is why you should have an attorney advise you on the various exceptions to the hearsay rule and what you can do if hearsay becomes evidence in your case.
Are you facing a family law case and need legal help? The knowledgeable attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC have the experience needed to defend your rights. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.