Telling Evidence: The Facts about Hearsay

By Tanya Thakur, Legal Coach

As most people are aware, evidence is information presented to a judge that helps prove the facts of a case or disprove facts presented by the opposing side. As a self-represented litigant, it is important to understand how this all works. Want to establish that you attended a ball game on May 7, 2019? You can prove it with the receipt from said game, on said date. Clear, inarguable evidence such as this is required when presenting your case.

There are numerous rules that govern what evidence can be presented to the court and the procedure for its presentation. These rules determine how documents are provided to the judge, and whether they must be disclosed to the other parties in the case. Ultimately, the rules of evidence are in place to ensure a fair and predictable trial. 

To prove your case, evidence must be: 

  • Relevant (helps the judge make your desired conclusion); 
  • Material (contributes to proving or disproving a fact that is of some consequence to your case) ; and, 
  • Not excluded by rules of admissibility. 

The judge hearing your case will decide whether the evidence is admissible based on the above criteria. Information contrary to these rules – the judge may refuse to consider it. 

So, what about hearsay evidence?

Hearsay Evidence is:

  • A statement made outside the trial (verbal or written); 
  • That is being used for its truth. 

Generally inadmissible in court, hearsay evidence is often unreliable at trial. An example:

Two years ago, Rita, my neighbour, told me that my ex took the children skydiving on their birthday

How do you overcome the problem? Call Rita as a witness and ask her to testify to this fact. Alternatively, if you can quote your ex as the other party in the court case, the judge will typically allow the evidence into the proceedings. 

Not all hearsay is inadmissible. A trial judge may allow a child’s hearsay evidence if they’re considered to be reliable. Coupled with reliability, a judge may also admit hearsay evidence if it is deemed necessary. 

Want to familiarize yourself with all the legislative and common law exceptions to hearsay evidence for your family law case? Contact the legal team at Coach My Case for your free 20-minute consultation today!