What Evidence Is Admissible During a California Family Law Case?

Evidence is the foundation of any type of legal case. During a legal dispute, including a family law matter such as a divorce case in San Diego, both parties are attempting to prove a claim and achieve their desired outcome. They do this by presenting evidence, or facts and information intended to prove that something is true. Understanding what evidence is typically admissible during a California family law case can help you know what to expect from the legal process.

What Is Relevant Evidence in a California Divorce?

First, the evidence submitted must be relevant to the case. Under the California rules of court, relevance is a threshold that a piece of evidence must meet before it will be admitted. The party looking to submit the evidence must prove its relevance before introducing it at trial. This means the evidence must be factually connected to the case in some material way. Evidence is relevant to a family law case if:

  • It has a tendency to make a fact that has been asserted more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, and
  • The fact is of consequence in determining the action.

The evidence must have the potential to affect the probability of a fact that is of consequence to the determination of the family law case. There is no hard and fast rule regarding what is relevant or not to a family law case. Instead, a judge will decide whether a piece of evidence is relevant to the case on an individual basis if the other party has objected to the admission of the evidence based on relevancy.

What Is Character Evidence?     

Character evidence in a family law case is testimony or information intended to paint a picture of a party’s character or personality. Character evidence may be used if a party is attempting to argue a parent’s abilities as a caregiver, for example, during a child custody case. Character evidence can help a judge learn more about a party’s general behaviors, tendencies, propensities and moral standing.

Character evidence may be ruled inadmissible if it lacks foundation. There must be a foundation for the character witness to know the things that he or she is asserting about a party. For example, rather than simply saying that a man is a good father, a character witness should show examples of when he or she personally saw the man displaying the traits of a good father. For this reason, character evidence is generally only used in specific circumstances.

What Is Privileged Evidence?

Privileged evidence is information that someone gleaned out of privileged communications with a party. Privileged communications are confidential. They exist in a relationship where a party is bound by confidentiality, such as doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers and members of the clergy. You cannot use privileged evidence during your family law case unless the privilege has been waived. Waiving privilege may be possible if the other party involved in your case has raised an issue that entitles you to obtain confidential information.

What Is Hearsay?

In the rules of evidence, hearsay is a statement that is not being made by the person who is giving testimony at a trial or hearing and is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay can come up often in family law hearings. For instance, during a character witness’s testimony, he or she may tell a story about one party’s good parenting that he or she heard from someone else. 

Generally, hearsay is not admissible as evidence in the family courts. This is to avoid “he-said, she-said” issues. However, according to California’s evidence code, a party can rely on hearsay evidence in accordance with certain standards to establish the character and value of separate and community property. Hearsay evidence is admissible if it can be used by an expert to form the expert’s opinion.

For further assistance gathering evidence that is admissible during your California family law case, contact the attorneys at Boyd Law for a free consultation.