Maryland/D.C. Family Law: What Are Rules of Evidence in a Divorce?

Evidence stamped in brown envelope concept of proof in law justice court

In every State and federal court, there are Rules established for divorce courts that determine what type of evidence can be admitted in a trial and under what circumstances. In Maryland and the District of Columbia, these rules have been codified by statutes and are generally called the Rules of Evidence. Although similar, there are separate Rules of Evidence for criminal cases. Maryland and D.C. divorces are considered civil cases. As such, evidence for Maryland/D.C. divorce cases is governed by the Rules of Evidence for civil cases. More on this below by the Maryland and D.C. divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl.

The Rules of Evidence are complicated and nuanced. But, generally, the purpose of the Rules of Evidence is to ensure that the evidence presented is trustworthy. Let’s take an example where one spouse wants to present—as evidence—a copy of a test message sent by the other spouse. For this text message to satisfy the Rules of Evidence, the Maryland/D.C. divorce court will want to be satisfied with several aspects of the proposed evidence. A few of these are:

  • Did the relevant spouse really send the text message?—this is important since, with today’s technology, it is not that difficult to create a fake text message.
  • Is the copy true and correct?—to be used as evidence, a text message must be complete and not modified in any way.
  • Is the text message somehow important to the case?—evidence must also be “relevant,” and so, a text message about the weather might be real, true, and accurate but might be excluded as being unimportant.
  • How did the one spouse obtain a copy of the text message?—the Rules of Evidence require that any proposed evidence be collected in a lawful manner; otherwise, the evidence can be excluded on the grounds of fairness.
  • And more.

These are some of the Rules that relate to documentary evidence. However, there are other types of evidence and additional Rules specifically associated with those types of evidence. Generally, evidence can be in these forms:

  • Documents—such as copies of text messages, emails, photos, bank records, etc.
  • Oral testimony from eyewitnesses and from fact witnesses with personal knowledge.
  • Videos—sort of a hybrid between documentary evidence and oral testimony.
  • Expert and opinion evidence—both in the form of written reports and oral testimony; an example would be a report from a treating physician (who also might be a fact witness giving oral testimony).
  • Physical evidence—such as, in a criminal case, the drugs or the murder weapon.

In Maryland/D.C. divorce cases, the disputed issues involve matters of property division, spousal support, and issues concerning minor children like custody, visitation, and child support. Thus, some of the more important specific types of evidence that might be used include records and evidence concerning:

  • Income and property holdings like paystubs, bank statements, property deeds, etc.
  • Employment, education, and skills
  • Medical issues, schooling, and other matters related to any minor children
  • Facts showing any “for-cause” basis for the divorce
  • And more

Maryland and D.C. Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with divorce and family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.

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