If you do any work in divorce courts, you are familiar with the excruciatingly dull business of live testimony of needs and expenses. In every support trial, you hear lawyers helping clients read their own affidavits out-loud into the record. Hours are wasted on this unnecessary exchange:
Wife’s Lawyer: And turning to page three, line two, what is your monthly water bill?
Wife: I am sorry, I do not remember.
Wife’s Lawyer (tapping his finger on the page and line of wife’s affidavit) Isn’t it $75?” Wife: “Oh, yes, $75.
Wife’s Lawyer: (tapping his finger on the next line of the affidavit) And your electric bill averages?
Wife: (reading her own affidavit) “$125?”
This goes on until the entire affidavit is read into the record, the day ends, or the trial judge wakes up and suggests that the affidavit just be admitted already.
Why can’t we stop doing that? The local rules require affidavits of needs and expenses, and so the affidavits get prepared. After these financial affidavits are compiled, verified, filed and served, they become competent evidence. Much like the affidavit of business records custodian about which I blogged a few weeks ago, the clients’ affidavits do not need to be read into the microphone. We should stop doing that.
This is not a new point. The North Carolina Court of Appeals had said so over five years ago. Row v. Row, 185 N.C. App. 450, 460, 650 S.E.2d 1, 7 (2007).A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals repeated the same point in Parsons v. Parsons (N.C. App. December 17, 2013).
Louise Parsons prepared, filed and served her affidavit of needs and expenses. And that was good enough, said the Court. Contrary to what her husband’s overzealous lawyers tried to argue, Ms. Parsons did not need to also read it out-loud. Husband’s lawyers—who tried to argue that there was no “evidence” of Louise’s expenses were wrong because they “faile[d] to recognize that the affidavit itself is evidence,” said the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Reading affidavits out-loud through the microphone takes hours, even days in some cases. If we just agree that the trial court judge can read for himself, we can all go home days ahead of schedule. Parsons might just be the answer to the divorce courts’ financial crunch.by