For many, divorce is their first, and likely only, experience with the legal system. As a result, the legal process associated with divorce can be overwhelming, stressful and intimidating, especially when it comes to going to court. If you will be heading to court for a hearing or final trial in your divorce in the near future, below are a few tips that will hopefully ease any anxiety and ensure you make a good impression on the presiding judge.
#1 – Know where you’re going. Make sure you know where the court is located, and make sure you know the exact courtroom where your hearing will be held. Also, make sure you’re on time. In fact, plan to be at least 15 minutes early. Being late is one of the quickest ways to make a bad impression on the judge. And, if you arrive early, you and you attorney will have an opportunity to discuss any last minute details before the hearing.
#2 – Do not speculate. When you testify in court, it is important that you only testify to facts and occurrences within your personal knowledge. Put another way, do not guess. If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say that.
#3 – Listen closely, and only respond to the question asked. There are special rules that govern how trials and hearings proceed, the evidence that may be introduced and the testimony that can be given. So, if your attorney asks you a specific question, it is important that you only respond to that question. Resist the urge to give additional information, unless you are asked to do so. If you are not thoughtful with your response, you may unintentionally violate one of the court’s rules, or you may even provide information that could be potentially damaging to your case.
#4 – Do not curse. This may seem obvious. But, it is very likely the opposing attorney will ask you question during cross examination that you may not want to answer. The other attorney may even be rude when he or she questions you. No matter what, be a polite and respectful as you can in response. Never use foul language and avoid certain gestures and eye-rolling. Don’t fall into the other attorney’s trap.
#5 – Dress appropriately. Generally, a rule of thumb in determining what to where to court is to dress like you are going to a funeral. If you are dressed inappropriately for court, the judge may take this as a sign of disrespect or as an indication that you do not take the proceeding seriously. So, if you would not wear it to a funeral, don’t wear it to court.
#6 – Be prepared. It is likely that your attorney will set up a meeting with you a few days prior to the hearing to make sure you both have the same expectations on how the hearing will proceed. If your attorney does not contact you, you should contact them. Preparation is extremely important, because preparation (or lack thereof) could mean the difference between winning and losing.