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Am I Eligible for an Uncontested Divorce?

Many couples know they wish to end their marriage yet fear the emotional pain of fighting in court. For those couples who wish to finish proceedings quickly and with cost in mind, there’s the option of uncontested divorce.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?

An uncontested divorce is the simplest form of divorce. There is no “contest” which means both you and your spouse agree on all terms. Uncontested divorces are often resolved faster than contested divorces. It’s also common for these divorces to be less expensive due to reduced court costs.

Who Is Eligible for an Uncontested Divorce?

Those who wish to move forward with an uncontested divorce must meet specific requirements. First, you and your spouse must agree on all aspects of your divorce, including the grounds or reason for the divorce. Other aspects include:

  • Property division: You and your spouse must have a property settlement that fairly divides all of your marital assets and debts. This includes bank accounts, mortgages, vehicles, property, personal items and more.
  • Spousal maintenance: If you or your spouse will receive maintenance or alimony, you must have a plan that explains the amount of the maintenance and how long you or your spouse plans to pay.
  • Child custody and visitation: You must know who will have custody of your children and whether it’s joint or sole custody. You must also agree how much visitation each of you will have and when visitation will occur.
  • Child support: You must agree on the amount of child support you or your spouse will receive and when.

Divorce Mediation

Do you and your spouse disagree on the aspects of divorce? If so, your divorce is considered to be contested. Yet, you do have the option to try mediation. If you and your spouse are able to work together amicably, an attorney can help you negotiate and reach an agreement outside of court. Like uncontested divorce, mediation can also save you time and money in court costs.

Reach Out to Schneider Law Firm Today

Whether your divorce is uncontested or contested, we recommend reaching out to an attorney. We’re here to support you. To learn more about divorce or to discuss your options, give our Fort Worth office a call at

Military divorce requires a unique approach. The experienced military divorce lawyers at Schneider Law Firm are here to support you. To learn more about your divorce, give our Fort Worth office a call at 817-799-1852 or send us a message.

Legal Tools for Fighting Domestic Violence in Texas

If you’re in a relationship and your partner makes you feel unsafe–through physical abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting you, isolating you from friends and family or in any other way–the lawyers at the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., are determined to protect you.

Our attorneys help survivors of domestic violence by using the legal tools that Texas courts make available. We can help you understand what these tools are and take steps to use them efficiently, protecting you and your family.

Protective Orders

One of the tools available is the petition for a protective order (which people also call a “restraining order”). In cases of family violence, we can file a request for a protective order on your behalf to protect you or your children, as well as your pets. Protective orders are an option for many people, including a victim who is related to the offender, living with the offender, or has a child with the offender.

There are several types of protective orders:

  • Temporary restraining orders: These can be granted by the court very quickly and remain in place for 14 days. 
  • Permanent protective orders: If you feel you need a longer protective order, you can ask a judge for a permanent order for protection, which lasts two years. To do this, you and your attorney will need to attend a second hearing.
  • Sexual assault protective orders (SAPOs): These can last from two years to a lifetime. They require the perpetrator to say 200 yards away from where you live, work or go to school.

Safety Planning

Domestic violence experts recommend that you have a safety plan in place. A safety plan is a practical plan for staying safe while you are in a relationship, while you are leaving that relationship or after you have left. Many people can be part of your safety plan, including your friends and family, coworkers and boss.

It’s important to have a safety plan in place because, in times of stress, adrenaline can keep you from thinking clearly. If you have rehearsed different scenarios, you’ll be more likely to think clearly and follow the plan you practiced.

Need Domestic Violence Help?

If you think you might need help escaping domestic violence, talk confidentially with one of our lawyers. At the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys can answer your questions about the legal protections available to you, guide you through the legal system and help you achieve the best possible results. Call 817-755-1852 or send us a message to talk with us about your situation.

Child Custody Agreements and Summer Vacation Planning

Summer is the perfect time for a family vacation. Yet, as a divorced parent, how do you plan the perfect summer vacay around your child custody agreement? Here are a few necessary steps you should take.

First Things First: Check Your Custody Agreement

Before you start planning, check your child custody agreement. Do both you and your ex-spouse have specific dates each year for vacations? Or, do you have unspecified vacation time to use any time throughout the year? Understanding your agreement will help you decide how to move forward.

If you have unspecified vacations, give your ex-spouse at least a few weeks’ notice before your vacation. If there are scheduling conflicts, it’s best to work them out in advance.

Communicate With Your Ex-Spouse

For all vacations, make sure you communicate specifics with your ex-spouse. You’ll want clear ground rules in place to ensure the safety of your children. 

Some questions you and your ex-spouse should discuss include:

  • Are you able to leave the state or the country? 
  • Do you need to provide a travel itinerary to your ex-spouse?
  • Are there certain activities your child shouldn’t take part in?
  • What should be done in case of an emergency?
  • Will the other spouse receive additional days with the child to make up for the vacation?

Once you have this initial discussion, it’s best to create a plan to use for next time you decide to take a trip. Your family law attorney can help you modify your child custody agreement to include these specifics.

Remember to Be Reasonable

It’s best to be open and reasonable with your ex-spouse when vacation planning. Try your best to not schedule vacations during important events such as holidays, especially if it’s your spouse’s time with the children. Remember to keep your child’s best interests in mind at all times.

Call Schneider Law Firm, P.C. for Custody Help

Are you struggling with balancing a child custody agreement with vacation planning? Our team of family law attorneys can help. To learn more about child custody or to speak with an attorney, give our Ft. Worth law firm a call at 817-755-1852 or send us a message.

Schneider Law Firm Operations And COVID-19

To Whom It May Concern:

The Schneider Law Firm is dedicated to continue helping and offering our services to our  community during these difficult times. If you are a potential client, please contact your nearest Schneider Law Firm location or visit our website for more information. While we will continue to be available for in-office consults, we will also be happy to schedule immediate phone conferences with any of our skilled family or criminal law attorneys in order to follow all current healthcare recommendations. If you are a current client; please review the information below as to the current status of cases in Tarrant County, Texas.

In a response to the current COVID-19 situation, five of the Tarrant County Family Court Judges have cancelled their dockets beginning Monday, March 16 through April 1, 2020. The only matters that will be heard are those considered “essential proceedings” which include: extraordinary relief TROs, protective orders, CPS hearings such as removals, status reviews and permanency review hearings, writ of habeas corpus proceedings and/or attachments, adoptions, and child support bond releases. If your case is considered “essential,” your attorney will be contacting you directly. If you have a hearing or trial in a divorce, modification or SAPCR in these Courts between now and April 1, 2020, it has been cancelled. Your attorney will be working with opposing counsel or the opposing party in these cases to determine whether any agreements or settlements can be made outside of court. Should the need for a hearing arise, all hearings will be rescheduled for some time after April 1, 2020 or as soon as the Court’s dockets reopen.

The 360th District Court has taken a different stance and will be available to hear matters between March 16, 2020 and April 1, 2020. The 360th District Court will approve all agreed Motions for Continuance and any non-agreed motions will be submitted to the Court by written argument. This Court will not require parties to appear in person and will allow videoconferencing or teleconferencing, if preferred. TeamSLF attorneys will be contacting our clients with hearings in the 360th District Court between March 16, 2020 and April 1, 2020, to determine a course of action.

For questions regarding Spring Break 2020, the Judges in Tarrant County have issued a statement asserting that spring break possession shall end according to the previously scheduled spring break as set forth in the school calendar for the applicable school district. This means you will follow the original spring break schedule as according to your underlying order or the dates originally designated for Spring Break 2020 by the school district in which your child resides. Your spring break schedule should not be effected by any Spring Break extensions made by your school district in recent days. All other periods of possession shall continue as previously ordered or as agreed to by the parties.

For criminal matters all Jury Trials in Tarrant County have been canceled until April 17, 2020. All court dockets for clients not in custody have also been canceled. If you have a bail bondsman you report to or are reporting to Pretrial services per order of the court CONTINUE TO DO SO.

To our current clients: The Schneider Law Firm will meet with current clients by phone conference or email, unless otherwise directed by the client. The Schneider Law Firm will continue to keep our clients updated and informed as situations change or progress. We would encourage all clients to be patient and understanding as we try and navigate this unprecedented event. 

We appreciate you working with us. 


P. Michael Schneider & Staff

Helping Children Cope With Divorce

Divorce can be one of the most challenging things that anyone experiences. And for a child, the impact can be life-changing. At Schneider Law Firm, P.C., parents often ask us how to help their kids cope with divorce. We work hard to help them resolve issues while minimizing the impact and making things easier for their children.

Take Care of Yourself

Divorce often comes with worry about finances, changes to the family schedule and overall conflict. It can take a toll on even the healthiest parent. To help your kids cope, make sure that you are managing your own stress appropriately. That way, you’ll be there for them when they need you.

Keep the Details of Divorce Away From the Kids

It’s also important to keep the details of your divorce between you, your ex, your lawyers and the court. Your children don’t need to know exactly who said what, especially when a divorce is heated—like when infidelity was involved. 

To keep your divorce just between adults:

  • Keep letters, emails or text messages locked up or password-protected. Older kids may be curious about exactly what’s going on, and they’ll seek out details that you may not want them to know.
  • Talk about the details outside of your home. Kids are often listening when you think they aren’t. It’s a good practice to have divorce-related conversations with your friends outside of the home. Just because the TV is on or the child is in the next room does not mean that they’re protected from hearing things that could be hurtful.
  • Avoid fighting in front of the kids. At the beginning of the divorce, agree with your spouse that you won’t fight in front of the kids. Parenting-time handoffs should be about working together to co-parent effectively.
  • Do not badmouth your ex, no matter how tempting it may be. Even when you really want to say something negative, hold back. Vent to your therapist, supportive friends and family members instead. Nasty comments can have a great and unintended impact on a child.

Let Your Kids Know That It’s Okay to Feel However They Feel

Some kids react to divorce right away. Others deny that they’re having any feelings, often as a way to attempt to hold onto “normalcy.” Regardless of how your child reacts to the divorce, remind them that they can always come to you to talk about how they feel. For very young children, you might have to put words to their feelings. For example, “it sounds like you feel sad that things have changed.”

Also, be prepared for and open to however your children feel. It’s not uncommon for children to feel relieved, happy and excited about the future when their parents divorce. Discuss positive emotions just as you would negative ones. These feelings are just as valid.

Talk With an Attorney About Divorce and Your Child

If you’d like help reducing the impact of a divorce on your child, start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125 . Consultations with our attorneys are confidential.


Changing Lives, Changing Circumstances: Life After Divorce

Let’s assume a typical family unit: husband, wife, two kids, and a dog. The family lives in a nice, middle-class neighborhood in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, with a home, two cars, and a few 401(k) retirement accounts from various career roles over the years. 

Unfortunately, the marriage is in trouble and is heading toward divorce

The divorce goes relatively smoothly. There are issues and disagreements to resolve, but the divorce is amicable. The parties agree to do what’s best for the children—to keep a sense of family continuity after the divorce, even though the family will no longer live under one roof. And they agree on issues like spousal support, which for two years the ex-husband pays on time and in full when due.       

But then a mishap: the ex-husband is hurt on the job and can no longer afford to pay the same amount of spousal support, at least temporarily. What happens next? 

Everything Changes but Change Itself 

To quote or paraphrase the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything changes but change itself. In other words, we can depend on at least that in life. The circumstances that held during the divorce, at the time the decree was entered and the divorce finalized, may not continue to hold in the months and years afterward. 

People get remarried. They have children. They go back to school. They find new jobs, out of town or even out of state. They get sick or injured, experience financial difficulty, and can no longer comply with the terms of the divorce decree, as described in our hypothetical scenario above.

What are your options when life happens?         

Post-Divorce Modifications

Court orders are enforceable against the respective parties. Judges expect the parties to abide by the terms set forth in those orders, from how much you pay in spousal support to the specific, day-to-day responsibilities related to parenting, as outlined in custody and visitation agreements. That said, the law recognizes Heraclitus’s remarks about change and allows for post-divorce modifications in some circumstances.

Here are a few additional (and common) examples:

  • As the children get older and more independent, their wants and needs will change.
  • When an ex-spouse remarries, his or her financial needs may change.
  • If an ex-spouse suffers a long-term disability and loss of income, his or her ability to pay spousal support will change.       

No Court Order Is Permanent  

Based in Arlington, the attorneys of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., help our clients adjust to life after divorce in changing circumstances. For a confidential consultation, call 1-817-799-7125 today.

Finances and Divorce: Studies Reveal Three Key Things

Researchers have done many, many studies on the relationship between love and money. Not surprisingly, they have found that financial issues are a great source of stress in marriages and one of the leading factors in divorce. Here are three key things that studies have revealed about finances and divorce.

1. Money Is the Leading Cause of Stress in Relationships

A survey done by SunTrust Bank revealed that money was the leading cause of stress in 35 percent of relationships. That stress is pervasive. In a separate study, The American Psychological Association found almost 75 percent of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly 25 percent are feeling extreme financial stress. So, if you and your partner are arguing over money, know you’re not alone.

2. When Wives Earn More than Husbands, Divorce Is More Likely

It’s increasingly common for wives to earn more than their husbands. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the wife earns more than the husband in 38 percent of marriages.
While the gender of the household’s primary breadwinner is changing, studies indicate that couples may be up against social and cultural forces that are slower to change. Some research suggests that couples are at higher risk of divorcing when the male partner earns less than the female partner. A study done by Harvard professor Alexandra Killewald reports that the risk of divorce is nearly 33% higher when a husband isn’t working full-time.
There could be many reasons for this, including the effort it takes a woman to shatter the glass ceiling, marital dynamics and social pressure. For example, a separate study done by the Pew Research Center found that about 40 percent of Americans believe it’s extremely important for a father to provide income for his children, but just 25 percent said the same of mothers.

3. Arguing About Money Is the Number One Predictor of Divorce

A 2018 study of 4500 couples published in the journal Family Relationships found that financial disagreements predicted divorce more strongly than any other common sources of disagreement, like how much time a couple spends together or how the household tasks are divided. The authors concluded that arguing about money–especially early in the relationship–could be the number one predictor of divorce.
Of course, arguing about money does not always mean you’ll divorce. But if you and your partner are involved in a financial dispute and you are considering a divorce, working with the right lawyer is the best way to protect your interests. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125. Consultations are confidential.

MarketWatch – When Wives Earn More Than Their Husbands, Marriage is Less Likely to Last
Money, Work and Marital Stability Study
CNBC: Money is the Leading Cause of Stress in Relationships
Family Relations: Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce

Custody and Visitation: Traveling Children

We at the Schneider Law firm understand the difficulties associated with shared custody agreements, especially for families that live in different states.

This insightful article from the New York Times addresses one of the many issues of interstate familial arrangements – child air travel. In its current state, the American Air Travel industry lacks a system designed to care for children unaccustomed to advocating for themselves. “Because there are no Transportation Department regulations regarding travel by unaccompanied minors, airlines create their own policies, beginning with who can fly, which is why experts emphasize the importance of educating children before they embark on a trip.”

Airline Requirements

Although many American carriers offer services for children designated solo fliers like select seats and airline escorts on and off the plane, and to connecting gates, there is no uniform system in place. While most airlines consider solo fliers from the ages of 5 to 15 as unaccompanied minors, the age limits and the additional fees associated with unaccompanied minors varies from carrier to carrier. Additionally, different fees and services may apply to multiple children traveling together. For example, children that travel together are usually promised a seat close to the front of the plane and airline agents will often escort minors to their seats, again when they deplane, and to connecting gates. Despite the services offered, not all flights are available to children traveling alone and many carriers limit younger children to nonstop or direct flights.

Parental Considerations

Parents of departing children with government-issued identification can obtain a pass that allows them to escort their child to the gate. The pass, which may be obtained at the check-in desk, may require them to stay at the airport until the plane has taken off, and most experts advise doing so in case the plane experiences a mechanical problem or delay and must return to the terminal. Likewise, most airlines will similarly issue a gate pass to the person designated to pick up the child, allowing the person to meet the child at the arrival gate.

Travel experts have recommended that parents prepare their children for flight as they would themselves, including sending them off with identification such as a birth certificate or a passport. Parents are also advised to pack a water bottle to fill after passing through security; some form of entertainment, like books or a tablet computer with an extra battery booster; a fleece or sweater for chilly flights; and food.

Experts also suggest that in the lead-up to the flight, parents should position it as an adventure to ease anxieties. Parents should involve their children in planning flights to make them feel empowered and excited. Finally, just because children can fly solo doesn’t mean all of them should.

If you have any questions or concerns as it pertains to [Texas Family Law], feel free to contact us at (817) 755-1852.

Crushing the Cross Examination

Part 1: Boxing them in

By P. Micheal Schneider

As a young lawyer I made MANY mistakes…still do if I’m being honest. One of the biggest mistakes I made was in how I conducted my cross examinations. Like an excited puppy waiting at the door, I would mentally work myself into a tizzy as I listened to the direct examination of opposing witnesses. The anticipation of attack would build in my head. The words “I pass the witness” coming from opposing counsel’s mouth were like the starting bell at the dog track. Unfortunately, like the greyhounds, I would seldom catch the rabbit.

Over time, I have come to learn that great cross examinations have similar attributes. Subtlety, focus, and control come to mind most frequently. Most importantly, great cross examinations require a plan to “box in” the witness with patient questioning so that the witness has nowhere to run when the haymakers are thrown.

Here is a great example of patient “boxing in” questioning from the timeless book The Art of Cross Examination (4th Edition) by Francis Wellman:

The issue was the forgery of a will; the proponent was a man of high respectability and good social standing, who had an indirect interest to a large amount, if the will, as offered, was allowed to be probated.  Samuel Warren, the author of “Ten Thousand a Year,” conducted the cross-examination. 

Warren (placing his thumb over the seal and holding up the will).  “I understand you to say you saw the testator sign this instrument?” 

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “And did you sign it at his request, as subscribing witness?’

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “Was it sealed with red or black wax?”

Witness.  “With red wax.” 

Warren.  “Did you see him seal it with red wax?”

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “Where was the testator when he signed and sealed this will?”

Witness.  “In his bed.” 

Warren.  “Pray, how long a piece of red wax did he use?”

Witness.  “About three inches long.” 

Warren.  “And who gave the testator this piece of wax?”

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “Where did you get it?”

Witness.  “From the drawer of his desk.” 

Warren.  “How did he melt that piece of wax?” 

Witness.  “With a candle.” 

Warren.  “Where did the candle come from?”

Witness.  “I got it out of a cupboard in the room.” 

Warren.  “How long should you say the candle was?”

Witness.  “Perhaps four or five inches long.” 

Warren.  “Do you remember who lit the candle?”

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “What did you light it with?”

Witness.  “Why, with a match.” 

Warren.  “Where did you get the match?”

Witness.  “On the mantel-shelf in the room.” 

Here Mr. Warren paused, and fixing his eye upon the witness, he again held up the will, his thumb still resting upon the seal, and said in a solemn, measured tone:

Warren.  “Now, sir, upon your solemn oath, you saw the testator sign this will he signed it in his bed at his request you signed it as a subscribing witness you saw him seal it.  It was with red wax he sealed it a piece of wax about three inches long he lit the wax with a piece of candle which you procured from a cupboard you lit the candle with a match which you found on a mantel-shelf?”

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “Once more, sir upon your solemn oath, you did?”

Witness.  “I did.” 

Warren.  “My lord, you will observe this will is sealed with a wafer!”

The extreme patience illustrated in Wellman’s example was the key to “boxing in” the witness. Imagine the response the witness would have given had Mr. Warren barreled straight into his line of attack:

Mr. Warren:       Sir, you said on direct that the will was signed and sealed with red wax.

Witness:              Yes, sir.

Mr. Warren:       Yet we see hear it actually is sealed with a wafer, correct?

Witness:              You know, you are correct. The sealing was so unimportant I must have forgotten how it was done. I just remember us sitting around the table and he signed it and that was that.

The size of the wax stick, its location, where the matches were and who lit them all seem to be very trivial matters. So trivial, in fact, the witness saw no harm in fabricating the answers. He must have thought “Who would know?” But by building up the surrounding circumstances and committing the witness to a single precise version of events, Mr. Warren was able to “box in” his witness. How now could the witness claim that he merely forgot the type of seal when he just firmly committed with such great detail to the circumstances surrounding the sealing of the will?

Certainly such dramatic events such as the above illustration are few and far between in the daily practice of law. But the same technique can be used in depositions, family law temporary hearings, and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases.

Take, for example, a recent jury trial in which my client was accused of causing bodily injury to his wife. On the stand the complainant alleged that the entire matter started when my client punched her in the face unprovoked. Despite her contention that she had a bruise and redness under her eye for “days” after, the police report contained no mention of any marks to her face the night of the incident despite noting in great detail several abrasions on her arms. During the reporting officer’s direct testimony by the prosecution, he surprised me (and I think the prosecutor) by mentioning that he now remembers (some 15 months later) that there was, in fact, “red puffiness” under the complainant’s eye the night of the alleged incident that looked like she had been hit.

Here is how we were able to “box in” the officer and show that his sudden recollection was less than credible:

Defense:             Officer, you said you have been with the force for seven years?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And before that you were in the academy?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And like any school the police academy has interesting parts and not interesting parts, correct?

Officer:                That’s true.

Defense:             And for all the time you spent shooting guns and practicing defense techniques you spent twice as much time in a class room learning things like radio codes, constitutional law, and report writing, isn’t that true?

Officer:                That’s true.

Defense:             And while the classroom stuff was not near as fun you recognize then and certainly recognize now that things like report writing are critically important, correct?

Officer:                 Correct.

Defense:             In fact, you testified that domestic disturbance calls are one of the most frequent calls you have to make, correct?

Officer:                Correct.

Defense:             You said you have made over a hundred domestic disturbance calls?

Officer:                At least.

Defense:             And over time those calls and the facts of those calls and the people involved can start to run together, correct.

Officer:               Sometimes.

Defense:             So when you get called to court on a case, some 15 months later, that written report may be the only trustworthy way for you to remember what happened on a particular night, wouldn’t you agree?

Officer:                I don’t know about “only trustworthy” way, but yes it does help.

Defense:             I’ve read your report in this case. Is that a copy in front of you?

Officer:                 Yes.

Defense:             And I will tell you officer it is a well written report.

Officer:                Ok

Defense:             Does it surprise you that some of the reports your fellow officers write can be quite confusing?

Officer:                 No

Defense:             It appears to me that you must have paid close attention when they were covering report writing in the academy. You were clear to note things like demeanor, location, names, times…everything a solid report requires, isn’t that correct?

Officer:                I tried.

Defense:             They taught you in the academy how it was important to write all the critical facts in the report, correct?

Officer:                Correct.

Defense:             That is for your benefit if you are ever called to testify, correct?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             And for your benefit if you are ever questioned by your superiors for decisions you made?

Officer:                I guess

Defense:             And it is also important for the government prosecutors, so they know the strengths of the case  and how to proceed?

Officer:                You would have to ask them.

Defense:             In fact, in probably about 95% of your case the report is the only communication between you and the prosecuting attorney?

Officer:                What do you mean?

Defense:             In most cases, the arrested citizen is dealt with in the court system without you ever talking to a prosecuting attorney?

Officer:                I guess that’s right.

Defense:             Back to this case officer, you followed all yoour training in writing this report?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             You even had [the complainant] fill out a written statement correct?

Officer:                  Yes

Defense:             And this was after you interviewed her?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And you interviewed her in the living room?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             It was not dark in there was it?

Officer:                No

Defense:             Then you filled out the family violence packet forms and were careful to note on the diagrams everywhere [the complainant] had injuries correct?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             And that included the abrasions and red marks on her arm and the scrape on her knee, correct?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And then, after my client was arrested by you, you completed a sworn probable cause affidavit for the local judge to review, isn’t that right?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And in that sworn affidavit you wrote again about the  injuries you observed, the demeanor of those involved, and what everyone at the scene told you, correct?

Officer:               Yes

Defense:             And this was a separate document from your report?

 Officer:                Yes

Defense:             But like your report it was done the night you arrested my client?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             In fact, within an hour or so of leaving the scene?

Officer:                Maybe two.

Defense:             When it was fresh on your mind?

Officer:               Yes

Defense:             Before you were called to any other domestic disturbances?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And you wrote the complainant was crying?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And you wrote she said they struggled over a cell phone?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             And you wrote she admitted pushing my client?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And you wrote my client was wearing a Romo jersey?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             And you wrote he asked to get a jacket because it was cold?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             And you wrote that you noticed a chair knocked over?

Officer:               Yes

Defense:             And you wrote that she said she thought my client had been having an affair?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             And you wrote that you could smell a faint odor alcohol on my client’s breath and you saw, and I’m quoting, “a Bud Light tall boy” that was still “cold to the touch.” Correct?

Officer:                Correct

Defense:             And you wrote that there was a Samsung Nexus phone with the case removed on the table, correct?

Officer:                Yes

Defense:             You wrote that you observed abrasions and marks on her arm and the scrape on her knee, correct?

Officer:                Correct

Defense:             You wrote that [complainant] said my client hit her in the face.

Officer:                  Yes, sir.

Defense:             And you also wrote that my client denied that and said [complainant] actually pushed and grabbed him when he was trying to leave.

Officer:                That is what he said.

Defense:             You wrote with great detail like you were trained correct?

Officer:                 Yes

Defense:             Yet nowhere in this report did you ever write that you observed  “red puffiness” under [the complainants] eye?

Officer:                No, I did not.

Defense:             And you didn’t note it on the diagram of the injuries?

Officer:                 No

Defense:             And you didn’t put it in your sworn affidavit?

Officer:                No

Defense:             Three times you noted the injuries you observed and in none of those three did you mention “red puffiness” to the face or any other injury to the face did you?

Officer:                I guess not.

Clearly I still have much to learn from Mr. Warren’s example. Nevertheless, by being patient with the questioning of an adverse witness, we were able to “box in” the officer such that it would be extremely difficult for him to retreat to the “honest mistake” position so many “professional” witnesses rely upon when confronted with inconsistency between the testimony and the facts. In my example, the jury was left wondering how such an important detail, if true, could have been missed by the officer. I mean, even the mean old defense attorney admitted it was not a sloppy report that appeared hastily written.

By contrast, if I were to have approached the new evidence of injury with bluster or indignation (or worse by accusing the officer of outright of fabrication) it would have been much more difficult to establish through the officer that his training and otherwise solid report writing were compelling evidence that the failure to contemporaneously note the injury wasn’t an “honest mistake’ in report writing but rather was likely a false memory (or outright fabrication) developed in the time since.

As a final note (which we will discuss later in this series) it is important when cross examining to know when to STOP. So often we see lawyers lose all they have gained by executing a great “box in” cross with a dreaded “how” or “why” question. For the love of the spirit of Daniel Webster please JUST STOP. You as the story teller can provide the answer as to WHY in closing arguments.

Next Time:

Crushing the Cross Examination

Part Two: Proceed with Caution!

To be continued…..

Fort Worth Criminal Defense and Family Law Attorney, Mike Schneider
Fort Worth Criminal Defense and Family Law Attorney, Mike Schneider

P. Micheal Schneider is the President and Managing Attorney at the Schneider Law Firm, PC in Fort Worth Texas. The firm practices exclusively Family Law and Criminal Defense. Micheal Schneider has been named a Texas Super Lawyer by his peers as published in the Texas Monthly Magazine and has been named a Top Attorney six times by his peers in Fort Worth, TX Magazine.