Your Appearance In Court: It Matters
Among the many aspects of divorce that cause stress and anxiety is the necessity to appear in court from time to time. Even if you hire an attorney to represent you, there may be times you must be present as part of your case.
Did you just feel your blood pressure rise? Not to worry! Here are some helpful tips to ease you through the process. (And by the way, it is not as scary as it seems!).
1. Make Sure the Court Knows You Are Present. If you have a lawyer, you should wait for him or her to direct you. Otherwise, make sure you check in with the clerk telling him or her who you are and why you are appearing. Most courtrooms have a docket call in the hallway or at the clerk’s desk for you to find your docket call number and check in with this information.
2. Be prepared. Your lawyer should tell you ahead of time why he or she needs you to appear in court. Sometimes you may need to testify (i.e. a hearing or trial is set), and other times it may be helpful for you to appear to observe the proceedings, provide information to your lawyer, and/or agree or object to certain orders. If you need to testify, your lawyer should prepare you in advance on the process including types of questions you can expect. You should ask your lawyer any questions and voice any concerns so you feel fully prepared.
3. Present Yourself Well. When you appear before the Judge, make sure you dress professionally. In addition, make sure you speak respectfully to the Judge – address him or her as “Your Honor.” Take care not to interrupt others (especially the Judge). If you have something you need to say, write a note and hand it to your lawyer or wait until there is a silent moment to request permission to respond to a point. Otherwise, wait until it is your turn to speak and make and respond to all points.
4. Remember the Court Reporters. Depending on the Judge and courtroom, there may be a court reporter typing and transcribing what everyone is saying during the proceeding. Take care to verbalize all responses (do not shake your head ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and speak loudly and clearly.
5. Avoid Use of Your Phone. Make sure your phone is on silent in the courtroom, and do not use it while in the courtroom. Otherwise, it may be confiscated by the sheriff. If you need to use your phone, step into the hallway and away from the courtroom doors.
6. Remember, Everyone Gets Nervous! Everyone is anxious when appearing in Court. Give yourself a break, and try to stay calm and relaxed (slow breathing helps) so you can clearly make your case.
In closing, for many people, getting divorced is the first time they have appeared in a court room. Understandably, it is normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed. Remember to follow these tips and take deep breaths, and you will get through it!
Kathryn A. McMahon is an associate at Katz & Stefani.