On July 20, 2017, in the case of Guiles v. Guiles, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a trial court ruling awarding the wife $3,000.00 in spousal support for 10 years. The Guiles case was a case of credibility. The trial court determined that the wife was more believable than the husband in awarding her spousal support.
In the Guiles case, the husband was gainfully employed and the wife was not. The husband argued that the wife could make a significant wage, and the wife disagreed. The trial court imputed a modest income to the wife in determining the spousal support award and the husband insisted the wife could earn more money.
In the context of a divorce, a case of credibility is typically a case of “he said – she said”, when “he” says one thing and “she” says something different. The trial court listens and weighs the evidence presented in making a subjective determination of which party is to be trusted and believed.
At the Appellate level the majority of cases decided on credibility are upheld because the trial court has a special opportunity to determine the trustworthiness of a witness. This special opportunity is codified in the Michigan Court Rules of Civil Procedure. Michigan Court Rule 2.613 is the rule that addresses the Limitations on Corrections of Errors and subparagraph(c) of the Court Rule provides that:
“Findings of fact by the trial court may not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. In the application of this principle, regard shall be given to the special opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witness who appeared before it.”
See also: Butgereit v Butgereit, 8 Mich App 246, 248; 154 NW2d 612 (1967): “That credibility is a matter for the trial judge is well settled.”
Many lawyers neglect the importance of witness preparation in presenting their case and the truth is lost. Imagine a circumstance where one party is telling the truth and the other party is a prepared liar. In a case of credibility, the prepared liar may be deemed more credible than the unprepared truthful client and the chance of fixing the decision on appeal is very difficult. Therefore, preparation is key to ensure your client’s story is uniform and unwavering at the trial level. While the truth has a tendency to be determined over time, it is often lost at a hearing or trial if the client is not properly prepared, delaying justice.
About Findling Law
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.
That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
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By: Daniel Findling