Proving your side of a Colorado family law case requires clear and convincing evidence. It is important to know what evidence is admissible in court and what will be ruled inadmissible so that you don’t waste time collecting evidence that you cannot use – or that may even get you into legal trouble, such as secretly recording someone. Understanding Colorado’s evidence standards can allow you to build your case by knowing what can and cannot be used in court.
Colorado’s Rules of Evidence
What a family law court allows to be entered as evidence depends in large part on state law. The Colorado Rules of Evidence determine what is admissible as evidence during a family law case. These rules were created to promote fairness in the administration of justice. In general, relevant evidence is admissible, while irrelevant evidence is inadmissible. The law defines “relevant evidence” as any that can make the existence of a fact that is material to the case more probable or less probable than it would have been without the evidence.
In some scenarios, however, relevant evidence can be ruled inadmissible or barred from a case. If the value of a piece of evidence is substantially outweighed by a potential danger presented by the evidence – such as misleading the jury, confusing the issues, wasting time or resulting in unfair prejudices – it will be excluded. In Colorado, character evidence will also be excluded if its purpose is to prove conduct on a particular occasion, except in some criminal cases.
What Evidence Is and Is Not Admissible?
Colorado’s evidence laws are nuanced and lengthy. The best way to understand what types of evidence are and are not admissible during your family law case is by consulting with a knowledgeable attorney. A basic overview of what generally will and will not be admitted as evidence during a family law case can help you, in the meantime:
Statements by third parties: not admissible. Something that a third party said is known as “hearsay,” and typically will not be admitted by a judge. This includes statements made by a couple’s child during a family law case. Statements made by certain experts or family investigators, however, may be admissible.
Documents and paper records: admissible. Many types of documents are implicitly admissible in a family law case, such as any court documents filed and financial disclosure forms. However, letters written by a third party, police records without an officer present and expert reports without the expert present are generally inadmissible.
Secretly recorded conversations: not admissible. While it can be tempting to record your spouse in secret, this may not be the right way to build your family law case. In Colorado, you are allowed to secretly record a conversation that you are part of, but you cannot leave a recording device in a room where you are not present. Even if recording someone is legal,it could lead to potential drawbacks, such as a judge viewing this as bad conduct.
Emails, text messages and digital records: admissible. Most digital records are admissible, including photographs taken by one of the parties and emails and text messages sent. In these situations, the whole conversation should be provided rather than only part of the conversation.
Navigating Colorado’s rules of evidence is easier with assistance from an attorney. Your family law attorney can help you understand your rights and the legal issues surrounding your case, as well as give you advice about what evidence to collect. Your lawyer will help you construct a case and design a legal strategy based on the evidence and information that is available and will be admissible in court. For more information about gathering evidence for your family law case in Colorado, contact the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci.