Tips for Testifying in Court

The Holley Factors and Statutory Guidelines for Best Interest Analysis

The Holley factors and statutory guidelines for best interest analysis provide the CASA with a road map of the evidence that needs to be brought out in court to ensure that the best interests of the child are addressed by the court.

A CASA appointed as Guardian Ad Litem is charged with the responsibility “to represent the best interests of the child.” Family Code § 107.001(5). A CASA may carry out these duties by testifying in court concerning the “best interest of the child.” Family Code § 107.002(e).

The courts commonly look to a set of guidelines, called the “Holley factors”, in evaluating the best interest of a child.

DOWNLOAD THE HOLLEY FACTORS HERE.

Matters in which you may be asked to give testimony:

  • Services provided and completed by parents
  • Visits and parents’ contact with child
  • Placement
  • Facts to support permanency (return to parents, termination, etc.)

BE PREPARED!

  • Have a complete and thorough understanding of the facts of the case
  • Create a timeline of events in the case
  • Know and communicate with all parties to the suit

What do I do when an attorney makes an objection?

When an attorney makes an OBJECTION, the judge will either:

  • SUSTAIN: No, you MAY NOT answer.
  • OVERRULE: Yes, you MAY answer.

General testimony Guidelines

DO

  • Relax and breathe
  • Listen closely and actively
  • Take your time
  • Answer only what is asked; be concise and precise
  • Tell the whole truth
  • Stop talking when an objection is made
  • Facts and details are better than conclusions
  • Ask for clarification or rephrasing if you do not understand
  • If you do not know the answer, say so
  • Be courteous
  • Talk loudly enough
  • Give audible answer; don’t shake your head
  • Look at jury when testifying

Don’t

  • Guess
  • Give personal opinions
  • Use CPS jargon or acronyms
  • Try to understand where the questioning is going
  • Make assumptions or generalizations
  • Be afraid to give credit where it’s due
  • Take it personally
  • Worry about how your answers appear
  • Stress about cross examination too much (attorney will clarify later)
  • Lose your temper
  • Argue with the lawyer
  • Look to the lawyer for help

Tips for testifying in court video series

CASA also has the 4-part drip learning video series presented by Rob Johnson with additional tips for testifying in court on our YouTube channel. You can find them here:

Tips for Testifying in Court: Part I
Tips for Testifying in Court: Part II
Tips for Testifying in Court: Part III
Tips for Testifying in Court: Part IV


If you are nervous about testifying, talk to your supervisor in advance about your concerns.

Most Important:

Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – even if it is detrimental to your case.