I start where the last man left off.

–Thomas A. Edison 

I never accepted the idea that I had to be guided by some pattern or blueprint.

–Little Richard 

Trials are hard enough, especially in emotional divorce cases or in child custody cases.  Do you really want to reinvent the wheel of foundational questions for each witness?  There’s something appealing about starting with a set of blueprints—in this case sample questions—and then improving upon the design, tailoring them to the witness and the flow of the examination to build a strong, persuasive structure for your argument in a divorce court.  Begin where Paul Mark Sandler and James Archibald left off and be guided by their blueprints. 

This third edition of Model Witness Examinations packs over three hundred pages into a trim 6 x 9 paperback, which makes a great addition to your divorce and family law library.  It takes the Rules of Evidence and puts them into the real life flow of question-answer format so that your facts come into evidence efficiently and your theory of the divorce case or child custody case unfolds.  The samples will help you offer direct examination, challenge and impeach witnesses on cross-examination, and respond to cross on your redirect during your divorce or child custody trial.


The core principle at work in these examination blueprints is simplicity and fundamentals before refinement and artistry.  Take stress out of the equation when preparing for divorce and family law cases.  Start with a simple organization and basic questions that meet evidentiary challenges.  Then add your own style and strategy based upon your experiences in your divorce and family law trials.

The examination blueprints address the most common evidentiary issues that arise at divorce and family law trials and guide you in how to effectively combine your facts with the rules of evidence. The examples cover a variety of situations by presenting a hypothetical fact pattern, the question-answer structure, and then comments.  The comments explain key concepts and refer to rules, secondary authorities and federal cases that illustrate the concepts in action, rendering themselves extremely helpful to your divorce law firm.

Here’s an excerpt from a sample blueprint for E-Mail Chains/Strings:

Q: And do you receive e-mails in the course of the day from faculty and administrators at the college?

A: Yes, several dozen a day.

Q: Dean Keyes, please review exhibit 1 for identification.  Can you identify it?

A: Yes.

Q: What is it?

A: This is a document I received containing a string of e-mails.

Q: Can you identify who sent you these e-mails?

A: Yes, according to the “From” field on these e-mails, they were sent by LEllison@Chase.edu, which is the e-mail address of Lionel Ellison, the Dean of Students.

Q: Could you describe what you see in the subject field for this e-mail?

A: Yes.  It has the term “Forward” followed by a colon, which indicates that Dean Ellison was sending me an e-mail he had received from someone else.  The subject of that e-mail was “Professor Roger’s ancient studies class.”

Q: Please describe the contents of the e-mail itself.

A: Dean Ellison wrote a note to me:  “This is the third complaint about Professor Roger’s inappropriate touching of students.”  Below that is a copy of the e-mail that he received, showing his e-mail address as the recipient.  That e-mail contains the complaint of improper conduct.

Q: And who was the sender of the e-mail that Dean Ellison received?

A: In the “sender” field for that e-mail, there’s an address: KWein001@Chase.edu.

Q: What if any significance does that e-mail address have for you?

A: I recognized it as the e-mail account of a Chase College student.  You see, faculty, staff, and administrator e-mail addresses have our first initial followed by our entire last name.  Student e-mail addresses have the first letter of the student’s first name, followed by the first four letters of the student’s last name, followed by a three-digit number.

The comment to this sample includes a four-page discussion of evidentiary matters, such as authentication, personal knowledge, fraudulent emails, hearsay, privilege and discovery applicable in divorce and child custody cases.

For ease of access, the examination blueprints are broken into three categories: direct examination, cross-examination and redirect, and discovery responses in trial, which is useful for your divorce and child custody cases.  Subcategories include: recollection, documents, best evidence or original document problems, demonstrative and real evidence, opinions of the lay witness, opinions of the expert, character, habit and custom, general interest, prior inconsistent statement and use of textbooks, redirect, depositions and interrogatories.  If that table of contents is not easy enough, there’s always the index, which is detailed and will point you in the right direction as you are preparing your divorce and family law cases.

The first edition had a solid beginning, and the examination blueprints have been improved with the most recent editions, which is super helpful as you prepare your divorce and child custody cases.  The second edition addressed amendments to the rules of evidence and added samples for immunizing the witness, present sense impressions, excited utterances, dying declarations, subsequent remedial measures, initial examination of a child, lifting stay in bankruptcy, tangible objects, and lay witness opinions of intoxication — all crucial information for your divorce and family law practice.  The third edition moved the book forward, especially in keeping with advances in technology.  The new blueprints include email chains/strings, digital images, computer simulations, preferential transfers in bankruptcy and nondischargeability matters — all of which are important in your divorce and family law practice.


Sandler and Archibald are Baltimore trial attorneys with a passion for helping other attorneys, including divorce and family law attorneys, in their trial preparations and performances.  Sandler is an active trial lawyer and accomplished author with numerous trial advocacy publications, including Anatomy of a Trial, Discovery Problems and Their Solutions, and The 12 Secrets of Persuasive Argument.  Archibald has a diverse litigation practice and is the former president of the Maryland Association of Defense Trial Counsel. Together, the Sandler-Archibald team has published several Maryland treatises on trial advocacy.

So in the end, it comes down to accepting Thomas Edison’s advice for the courtroom and saving your inner Little Richard for the weekends.  Science before art, I suppose. Start where Sandler and Archibald left off. Accept their sample questions as your blueprints in your divorce and child custody cases. Improve upon their design by tailoring them to the witness and the examination.  And build a sound structure for your argument when in child custody court.  The result? A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!

Paul Mark Sandler and James K. Archibald, Model Witness Examinations (3d ed. 2010, American Bar Association). $79.95.