My lawyer asked me to get letters of my character from my friends for family court to introduce as evidence, but do they really matter and is 12 enough?
Do letters vouching for one’s character really matter?
If so, are 12 character reference letters enough?
I will answer these questions:
- in the context of a divorce and child custody case (because my guess is that is the kind of case for which your lawyer told you to get character reference letters); and
- based upon the laws of the State of Utah, where I practice divorce and family law.
Do letters vouching for one’s character really matter? Another way one might ask this question is: “Do character reference letters have a major helpful impact on my case?” It’s impossible to say whether this is true in all cases. Some judges may give greater credence and weight to character references than do other judges. I think the key question is instead: “Is there any good reason not to submit positive character reference letters to the court in support of my case?” My answers to that question are:
- I don’t see such letters posing a serious risk of harm to your case. If so,
- Are 12 character reference letters enough? Probably more than enough, depending upon their respective length and content. 12 five-page, single-spaced, rambling letters without any paragraphing and bad punctuation and spelling are either not going to be read or remembered or, if they are remembered, will not be remembered favorably. Form letters that are all the same but for the signature at the bottom are a bad idea. Letters that attempt to build you up by tearing your spouse down aren’t terribly persuasive.
- 4 or 5 letters of one page or less, from credible (i.e., not just from from Mom and Dad, your minister and your best friend, but from neighbors and teachers, and others who don’t have a stake in the outcome of the case, for example) plain-spoken people who know you well and who make a cogent argument for your good character are probably about right in number and length. The only exception I can think of is if your spouse submits 10,000 character letters, then you may need to respond in kind, if the court determines character by volume.
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