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Preparing For The Courtroom

by Vicki Wilson on Apr. 30, 2019

Divorce & Family Law Divorce & Family Law  Child Custody Divorce & Family Law  Child Support 

Summary: Clients are usually nervous about going to court, especially if it is their first time being before a judge or testifying. Here are some tips to help you feel more at ease.

Going to court can be scary for anyone, especially if you’re already stressed about your situation and the possible outcome.  Here are some tips to help you navigate the strange land of family law court:

1.Dress appropriately.  You don't have to wear a suit, just look like an upstanding member of society.  For men, I suggest dress slacks and a collared shirt.  For females, I suggest a dress, skirt or slacks with a nice blouse.  Avoid showing cleavage or tattoos.  Take the piercings out if you have them.  You want to look clean cut and innocent.

2. If you need to tell your lawyer something during hearing/trial, write it down for them.  Lawyers can't listen to testimony from a witness on the stand and listen to you at the same time. You want your lawyer to hear everything that is said so nothing gets missed.  Your lawyer will read your notes from your pad when they get a break in the action.

3. When you testify, listen carefully to the questions.  Ideally, you will rehearse your testimony with your lawyer beforehand.  Remember to answer "yes", "no" or "I don't know" or "I don't understand the question" first, then you can elaborate if need be.  You must answer the question first, before you explain yourself.

4. During child custody or child support proceedings, refer to your child by his or her name.  Don't say "the kid".  It sounds cold, like you don't have a connection or care that much about your child if you don't refer to him/her by name.

5. While testifying, look at your lawyer and occasionally look at the judge.  Judge's don't like it when a witness ignores them or stares at them too much either. Keep it natural and when you get to a point in your testimony where you really want the judge to see that you mean what you are saying or that it's genuinely heartfelt, that's the time to look at the judge.  Let the judge connect with you and see your feelings and how much you care.

6. When the other attorney is cross-examining you, do not, I repeat, do not get angry.  The attorney may try to get you angry.  He/she is doing this to get you rattled and get you to show a side of yourself that is not complimentary and may alienate the judge against you.  Don't take the bait.  Stay calm and breathe before answering.  Look at your lawyer for support.  You are not there alone.  You have your lawyer to help you.  Remember that if you answer a question the "wrong" way and really meant it differently, your lawyer will ask you about it again so you can explain and let the judge know what you meant.

7. Be honest.  Judges prefer an honest person who has made mistakes (everyone has) to someone who lies to make himself/herself look better.  It won't work.  Judges have seen it all.  You usually can't fool them.

8. Above all, be respectful.  Say, "Your honor" or "judge".  Say, "Yes maam" or "no sir". Show the judge that you respect their position and the court.  Disrespectful people do not get good results in court. 

Follow these basic rules and you'll hopefully do better than the other side.

Good luck!

Vicki Wilson

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