Think of the courtroom as a stage. You’re the lead actress and the judge is a critic. He’s watching your every move and listening to your every word. Your job as the star is to convey a positive message, which in turn, leads to a favorable ruling. To prepare for your role, consider these tips.
1. Dress Conservatively.
If you walk into court wearing a mini skirt, fishnet stockings, and stiletto heels, your appearance could determine the fate of your case. A male judge may view you as provocative and a female judge, trashy. These prejudices could result in an unfavorable ruling in your case. To avoid this, dress conservatively. Wear knee-length, well-fitting suits or dresses in neutral colors. Wear minimal jewelry and make up. Style your hair conventionally and leave your sunglasses in the car. This advice may sound sexist but, unfortunately, it is necessary.)
2. Don’t take your boyfriend or male friends to court with you.
The presence of unfamiliar men in court can give the appearance of impropriety, especially in a fault divorce state. If you need your brother or father to accompany you, ask your lawyer to introduce him and disclose his relationship to the court while on the record. If your boyfriend wants to lend his support, ask him to drop you off and pick you up a safe distance from the courthouse each day.
3. Turn off or silence your cell phone or tablet before entering the courtroom.
If you can’t do this because you’re an on-call surgeon, make sure your lawyer announces this to the judge on the record at the beginning of the court session.
4. Be modest.
Do not make faces or gestures when your spouse, your spouse’s lawyer or the judge is speaking. Avoid speaking to your spouse, his lawyer or his witnesses when you are before the judge unless you’re directed to, or yours is a friendly divorce. Don’t use foul language, chew gum or use tobacco.
5. Be respectful.
The judge holds your fate in his or her hands. Convey a message of respect and recognition. Always stand and thank the judge when you speak to him or her. Refer to the judge as “Your Honor.” Show regard for his or her authority and if you must disagree, preface your comments with, “With all due respect your honor….”
6. Keep your emotions in check.
Negative and hostile emotions can cloud your judgment. They also reverberate around you, sending unpleasant messages to others. Depression and intense melancholia can also impede your thinking and make those around you uncomfortable. Leave these emotions outside of the courtroom.
7. Do not take your children to court.
Children are very distracting in court and, more importantly, are too sensitive to be exposed to the realities of divorce. Find a sitter, day care program or relative to care for your children unless, of course, the judge asks you to bring them to court.
8. Be prepared and organized.
Know your case inside and out. Understand the issues at trial and your lawyer’s strategy for arguing them. Review your testimony and prepare for cross-examination. Bring all important information, documentation and pertinent information to court with you. Make sure it’s well-organized and easily identifiable.
This article is not legal advice. You should consult an attorney if you have legal questions that relate to your specific divorce.