Navigating your way through a family law case can be confusing during what is often a stressful and emotional time in your life. Not knowing what to expect can make it even harder. Whether it is a divorce, child custody, or a modification of your current court order I can help.
At some point during your case, at least one of you will usually need to go in front of the Judge. This happens even if you and the other side reach an agreement.
What to Wear and How to Act:
It is important to dress appropriately when appearing in court. Men should wear a suit, or pants and a shirt with a collar. Women should wear a suit, dress, skirt, or pants that are not too tight, too short, or too revealing. Shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, or hats are not allowed in court. If you are unsure about what you should wear, ask me what is appropriate for the courtroom you will be in.
A court hearing or trial is a formal legal proceeding and all persons are expected to be on their best behavior while in a courtroom. Always treat the judge and other court personnel with the utmost respect. When you enter a courtroom, you should turn off all noise-making items such as watches, and cell phones. Once the judge has entered the courtroom, you cannot talk, whisper or write notes to anyone, unless your attorney addresses you directly and needs a response.
When it is time for your case to be heard, you should speak clearly, politely and loud enough to be heard by the judge and the court reporter. All responses must be verbal, not by a nodding or shaking of the head. If you address the judge directly or answer a question the judge has asked, always begin or end your answer with “Your Honor,” “Sir” or “Ma'am.” When referring to anyone else, even someone you know well, address him or her as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” Never interrupt when someone else is speaking, especially the judge, even if you feel like what they are saying reflects badly on your case or they may be mistaken in their facts. You or your attorney will get a turn to speak. Sometimes during testimony, one of the attorneys has to make an objection. If this happens while you are speaking, stop talking until the judge can make a decision on whether you need to finish answering the question.
If you are asked a question that you do not understand, it is okay to respectfully ask for clarification. If you need a tissue, water, or a break, it is okay to respectfully request one.
Bring Witnesses with You to Court:
Court proceedings are open to the public and therefore you can bring any adult family members, friends, clergy, or anyone else who will pro-vide you with support during your court matter. If these persons will not also be witnesses in your case, they can stay and watch the proceeding. If any of them will be called as witnesses, they will have to leave the courtroom until it is their turn to speak Witnesses are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone while they wait to be called to speak. Witnesses are allowed to bring books or magazines to read while outside the courtroom. If you are unsure about who to bring with you, you should discuss it with your attorney. You should not bring children to the courthouse, even if the family law matter being heard involves them, unless your attorney has directed you to or you have been ordered by the judge to do so. If you cannot avoid bringing your children to the courthouse, then you should bring a competent adult to supervise them while you are inside the courtroom, as the children will not be allowed inside while court is in session. In very few instances, the judge will interview the children involved. There are special procedures for this to occur outside the actual court hearing if that is necessary. You should discuss with your attorney whether children's statements are needed in your family law matter.