Picture this – two spouses in a matrimonial dispute. The husband (or former husband) files a motion to reduce his alimony. In support of that motion, the husband files a certification, under oath, telling his side of the story about how he lost his job, has a disability, or whatever reason it is that has caused his down income. On the flip side, the wife files her response to the husband’s motion, with a certification of her own, telling her side of the story about the husband is still living lavishly, is lying to the court, and is simply doing what he has to do to reduce his payment obligation to her. Not surprisingly, the two versions of events could not be more diametrically opposed.
In that scene, what is the trial judge supposed to do? Is he just supposed to take the husband’s word for it that he can no longer earn what he did before and that his entire financial picture merits a reduction of his support? Is he supposed to believe the wife’s response, about how her former husband is simply just a bad guy who refuses to pay that to which he agreed or was ordered.
Generally – but, of course – not always, a trial judge is not supposed to resolve the question of credibility, or who is telling the truth, simply by reading the papers submitted by each party. When there is a dispute of fact, the judge is supposed to then order a hearing, during which time he will take testimony from the parties and then determine who is credible/truthful. Ordering a hearing, though, does not happen in every case, as almost every case will inevitably involve some dispute of fact, to some degree. If the judge ordered a hearing in each instance, the family part would be even more flooded than they already are.