WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Preparing for Court

Starting the Court Case

Who can be a witness? How do I contact potential witnesses before the hearing?

Anyone can be a witness – a friend, a family member, an emergency room nurse, a doctor, a stranger who saw or heard the abuse, a law enforcement officer, etc. If your witness is a child, the court may limit what a child can testify to or have certain rules or procedures you must follow. For example, you might be required to tell the judge what the child would testify to and why only the child can provide that information. The judge might also require the child to testify in the judge’s chambers (“in camera”) without the parties being present.

Some witnesses may not come to court unless they are given a subpoena that commands them to appear and testify. Court clerks usually have subpoena forms that you can fill out, and the subpoena may have to be signed by the judge or other court personnel. There may be specific rules in your state regarding how witnesses have to be served with the subpoena and even how many days before the hearing they must be served. Be sure to ask the clerk or the judge for this information. In some states, the sheriff’s department will serve the subpoena. In other states, you may have to get someone over 18 to serve it or a process server. You can ask the clerk of court how to have your subpoenas served.

Let the judge know if the people you subpoena do not come to the hearing. The judge can penalize them for not showing up or postpone the hearing until they do appear.