What to expect in a family law case

YOUR FAMILY LAW CASE – WHAT TO EXPECT

This article is not intended to be legal advice and is not a substitute for legal representation by an attorney. You are encouraged to seek the advice of your own attorney to answer any specific legal questions you may have.

COURT APPEARANCE

At some point during your case, at least one of you will usually need to go in front of the Judge. This happens even if you and the other side reach an agreement.

What Should You Wear? It is important to dress appropriately when appearing in court. Everything you wear should be clean, pressed, and neat in appearance. Men should wear a suit, or pants and a shirt with a collar. No hats are allowed in the courtroom and you will be asked to remove your hat if you bring one.  Women should wear a suit, dress, skirt, or pants that are not too tight, too short, or too revealing. Shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, or hats are not allowed in court. Excessive make up, jewelry, or extreme hairstyles are not advised. If you are unsure about what you should wear, ask your attorney what is appropriate for the courtroom you will be in.

Leave Your Weapons at Home! Both Potter and Randall Counties now have scanners that you must walk through in order to enter.  They will confiscate any weapon, so leave your hardware at home!

How Should You Act? A court hearing or trial is a formal legal proceeding and everyone is expected to be on their best behavior while in a courtroom. Always treat the judge and other court personnel with the utmost respect.  When speaking to the judge, you should address him or her as “Your Honor” or as “Sir” or “Ma’am”.

When you enter a courtroom, you should turn off all noise-making items such as watches, cell phones or pagers. Food, drinks, and chewing gum are not allowed inside. You should not bring magazines, newspapers, or any outside reading into the courtroom.

When the Judge enters the courtroom, you must stand until told to be seated.  If there is a jury, you must also stand for them until told to be seated.  You must do this each time the judge and the jury enter or leave.  Once the judge has entered the courtroom, you cannot talk, whisper or write notes to anyone, unless your attorney addresses you directly and needs a response.

When it is time for your court matter to be heard, you should speak clearly, politely and loud enough to be heard by the judge and the court reporter. All respons­es must be verbal (e.g. not by a nodding or shaking your head.). If you address the judge directly or answer a question the judge has asked, always begin or end your answer with “Your Honor,” “Sir” or “Ma’am.” When referring to anyone else, even someone you know well, address him or her as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” Never inter­rupt when someone else is speaking, especially the judge, even if you feel like what they are saying reflects badly on your case or they may be mistaken in their facts. You or your attorney will get a turn to speak. Sometimes during testimony, one of the attor­neys has to make an objection. If this happens while you are speaking, stop talking until the judge can make a decision on whether you need to finish answering the ques­tion.

If you are asked a question that you do not understand, it is okay to respectfully ask for clarification. If you need a tissue, water, or a break, it is okay to respectfully request one.

BRINGING OTHERS TO COURT WITH YOU.

Friends and Witnesses Court proceedings are open to the public and therefore you can bring any adult family members, friends, clergy, or anyone else who will pro­vide you with support during your court matter. If these persons will not also be wit­nesses in your case, they can stay and watch the proceeding. If any of them will be called as witnesses, they most likely will have to leave the courtroom until it is their turn to speak Witnesses are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone while they wait to be called to speak. Witnesses are allowed to bring books or magazines to read while outside the courtroom. If you are unsure about who to bring with you, you should discuss it with your attorney.

If you are going to court for a temporary hearing, most local judges will allow only two witnesses – you, plus one witness.  Your spouse or significant other can also bring one person to testify along with him or her at a temporary hearing.  When you finally go to trial, you will not be as limited regarding the number of witnesses you can bring.

ChildrenYou should not bring children to the courthouse, even if the family law matter being heard involves them, unless your attorney has directed you to or you have been ordered by the judge to do so. If you cannot avoid bringing your children to the courthouse, then you should bring a competent adult to supervise them while you are inside the courtroom, as the children will not be allowed inside while court is in session.

In very few instances, the judge will interview the children involved. There are special procedures for this to occur outside the actual court hearing if that is necessary. You should discuss with your attorney whether children’s statements are needed in your family law matter.

This article is not intended to be legal advice and is not a substitute for legal representation by an attorney. You are encouraged to seek the advice of your own attorney to answer any specific legal questions you may have.