In our March 18, 2021, New Jersey Law Journal article, we wrote about the practical application of various Rules of Evidence that frequently appear in the practice of family law. The article was an overview of certain Rules and how they apply in different family law contexts. We resume that discussion here, continuing in the same vein to provide some practical advice on the use and applicability of the Rules in real-life situations that may face family law practitioners.
As a threshold matter, family law attorneys must know N.J.R.E. 611 and N.J.R.E. 403 (particularly as it relates to N.J.R.E. 611). First and foremost, and perhaps somewhat obviously, N.J.R.E. 611 provides for the following: the court controls the proceeding. It is the court’s obligation to manage the flow and ensure the proper administration of the proceeding, avoid wasting time, and protect the witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment. Indeed, some of the objections you may hear attorneys cry out (“badgering the witness” for example), are actually derived from this Rule. In a similar vein, N.J.R.E. 403 provides the court with additional grounds to maintain “control” of the evidence. In practice, for example, you have undoubtedly heard: “asked and answered!” While this is an appropriate phrase used by the most seasoned trial attorneys (including Jack McCoy), the phrase does not appear in the Rules; the objection is derived from a trial court’s discretion to exclude “needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” See N.J.R.E. 403(c).