A divorce proceeding that has led to trial is the culmination of months—or perhaps years—of a hotly-contested process. Regardless of your emotional state coming into court, you must keep your feelings in check and adhere to courtroom etiquette in order to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
Remember, you are constantly being evaluated at every court appearance. The judge will analyze your credibility, while the attorneys will assess your behavior to determine what kind of witness you will be at trial. So being on your best behavior can make or break your case.
The following are several tips on how to act in court during your divorce hearing:
Dress appropriately – First impressions are important in life, especially in the courtroom. The way you dress in court should portray respect for the court and court officials. Be sure to wear professional attire. For men, either wear a suit, if possible, or a dress shirt with a tie and slacks/khakis. For women, either wear conservative dress, pantsuit, or a combination of a conservative blouse and slacks. If you are not sure what to wear, you can always ask your lawyer for suggestions.
Arrive early – Plan to arrive at least 15-30 minutes before the scheduled court appearance. Give yourself an extra amount of time to anticipate traffic, transit delays, parking, and to navigate the line to go through the metal detector before entering the courthouse. You may also have enough time to discuss your case with your attorney and gather your thoughts.
Follow courtroom etiquettes – There are certain court rules that you must follow, such as standing up when the judge enters the courtroom, sitting upright throughout the proceeding, and paying attention to everything that is being said. Before you enter the courtroom, make sure your cell phone is turned off or on silent.
Stay calm and collected – Despite the overwhelming emotions associated with your divorce, it is important to remain composed and in control during the entire procedure. Remain silent unless your lawyer, or the judge, directs you to speak. Do your best to hold back your emotions and concentrate on the legal proceedings. Never interrupt or talk out of turn. Remember, everyone in the courtroom is watching how you act. So try your best not to lose your temper or be confrontational with your spouse.
Be clear and confident – Whenever you are asked to speak, maintain eye contact and use a loud, clear voice. Take your time when answering questions. If you do not know the answer, do not be afraid to say so. Lying will only make matters worse.
Show respect – Since the judge will make the final decision, you want to show him/her that you respect his/her courtroom. For example, always address the judge as “your honor” and act respectfully throughout the proceeding. Your respect toward the judge, the attorneys, and other courtroom personnel demonstrate your trust in the legal system.
In conclusion, being prepared and courteous can go a long way. If you are not sure on how to act or behave in the courtroom, do not hesitate to ask your attorney for help.