The judge, jury and everyone else in the courtroom will take notice of how you choose to present yourself to the court. You want to show that you respect the court and that you are taking the matter seriously. You do not have to wear a suit and tie but, there is definitely a difference between a pair of slacks with a button-up shirt compared to flip-flops, shorts and tank tops. You want to present the best image you can to the court. This will help your lawyer in his or her representation on your behalf.
In this Blog, I am going to focus on the most important points to remember when appearing before the judge in your divorce case.
If you are scheduled to appear in Court, it isn’t because you have great news to share or hear. Court appearances will often bring a flood of emotions. When you are emotional, it is easy to forget proper tone and language. So first things first, check your emotions at the door. While emotions are understandable, the courtroom is not the proper place to express them. During your case if you feel overwhelmed let your attorney know so he/she can ask for a break. Go to the restroom or walk outside and take a few moments to collect yourself.
Respect, yes, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It has come time for you to go head-to-head with your ex-spouse in the courtroom. It’s most likely that neither of you have any desire to show respect to the other, but during court, it is a must! Before you walk into the Courtroom, take a deep breath, put on your poker face and put your attitude in your pocket before you walk in. You should only communicate with your attorney, courtroom staff, the Judge or the opposing attorney. REMEMBER, the opposing attorney may make harsh remarks or ask unfavorable questions to tempt you to lose your cool. Once your hearing has begun, if you have a question for your attorney, pass them a note, and do not interrupt anyone – ESPECIALLY the Judge. If you must address the Judge, be sure to begin phrases with “Your Honor”, answer with “Yes/No Your Honor “ or “yes/no sir” “yes/no ma’am”.
Once your hearing has begun, you have to maintain a level of confidence. Speak clearly and professionally. Make direct eye contact with whom you are speaking. Answer questions honestly. If you are not sure how to answer a question, simply state you do not understand the question, please rephrase. For example:
DON’T say: “Do what, I don’t know what you mean.”
DO say: “I’m sorry your honor, but I’m not sure I understand the question, will you ask the attorney to rephrase the question for me?”
- Know when to Shut-up!:
It is common for the opposing team to make several efforts to get you mad and show aggression. It is important that you keep your cool at all cost. Do not volunteer any information, in other words, speak only when spoken to. If your attorney instructs you to not say a word, keep your mouth closed. If the judge makes a ruling that you do not like, you must remain quiet.
- Dress Appropriately:
Please do not show up looking like you just rolled out of bed, just finished changing the oil in your car or working in your yard. Ladies, dress conservatively. It isn’t the best idea to go to into a court room wearing revealing clothes. You have to present yourself to be taken seriously if you expected to be taken seriously. Gentleman, do not come dressed in the latest designer fashions with a new Rolex watch on and claim you cannot afford to pay child support. We usually suggest a suit, dress slacks with a nice shirt. If you do not have either on hand and at the very least wear nice, clean jeans with a plain colored collared shirt. Hygiene: Ladies, conservative make-up, light perfume, trimmed nails and modest hair style. Gentleman, shave, light cologne, modest hair cut and trimmed nails. The main objective is to appear, clean cut, trustworthy and honest. Do not wear a lot of jewelry and if you have facial piercings, please remove them before entering the court room.
- Cell Phones:
It is preferred that you leave your cell phone in your car. If you bring your phone to court with you, be sure to have it on silent – not vibrate – silent. When your case is called and you have to answer questions from the Judge or attorney, do not pick up your phone. No texting, no emailing, no phone calls, no games just do not use your phone while court is in session. Should you have an emergency and need to use your phone, please excuse yourself and exit the courtroom. In the event that you have information stored on your phone for the court to review, politely ask the judge if you may turn on your cell phone to find the information in question.
If you are involved a divorce case, please – PLEASE – leave your significant other at home. If you feel like you need support, ask your parents or adult friend to come with you. Bringing your new boyfriend/girlfriend to court not only adds insult to injury for the other party, but also opens doors for the opposing attorney to question your fidelity during the marriage.
The judge is going to make long-lasting decisions about you and your family. You have only one chance to make a first impression on the judge. By exercising some common sense and discretion, you can prevent your appearance from negatively impacting the judge’s decision.