It’s natural to feel nervous about going to court, especially when you know you’ll have to speak before a judge. To top it off, a family law case is often an emotional experience, as they involve sensitive situations like divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence, spousal support, or other issues. If you will be testifying in family court, here are a few tips to help you prepare and have a smooth experience.
You can make a good first impression by wearing what you would wear to a job interview or a religious service. Dressing appropriately and modestly shows the court that you respect the legal process and the situation you are there to discuss. Presenting yourself in this way may also help calm some nerves.
Organize your thoughts ahead of time. Like our firm, most attorneys will prepare with clients before a court hearing to make sure they are clear about key points and what to expect. In addition, it’s helpful to make a timeline or outline for yourself to get your own thoughts together prior to the hearing. You cannot bring this document with you when testifying, but it can help you think things through.
Getting organized ahead of time can also help you avoid rambling or bringing up irrelevant points. Sticking to clear facts will allow the judge to learn about you and your family and make the best decisions.
Your attorney is there to represent your best interests, so be sure to share everything about your situation. That way, he or she can decide how to best present the information to the court. Lying or omitting facts is a huge mistake. It shows disrespect and hurts your credibility.
By following these tips, you can help ensure you’re adequately prepared, organized, and ready speak before a judge or master. If you are still nervous about the upcoming hearing, contact your attorney to discuss what’s ahead.
The Pennsylvania divorce process may involve several court appearances. Some of these appearances can be handled by your attorney. Below are some tips for making a good impression during your PA divorce hearing.
Prepare for the Hearing
Bring a good disposition. Be on time. Dress conservatively, turn off your phone, and behave in a respectful manner. Avoid emotional displays. It is usually best to avoid interacting with your ex unless the judge directs it.
Get your facts straight. Review the facts of your divorce with your attorney. Make sure you are ready to testify before you go to court so you do not end up fumbling for words while you are there. Your attorney will help you decide on the best way to present our case in a positive manner. Try practicing your testimony prior. If public speaking makes you nervous, you may want to create an outline or a note card to use while testifying.
Get organized. Know everything about your case, including all the property that you and your spouse own. Know which items you’d like to keep and which items you are willing to give to your spouse. Make a similar list of debts. Your attorney can help you with this step.
Prepare your paperwork. Prepare all of the documentation related to your divorce before your court appearance. This way, you have plenty of time to correct errors or replace any missing paperwork. Make sure your paperwork is well organized and easy to find should you need it.
Choose your companions wisely. You may want to ask a close friend or relative to attend the hearing with you to provide emotional support. Do not bring children or a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Additional Tips to Testifying in a Family Law Case
For most people, the only experience they have with court or testifying comes from what they have seen on TV. But, leading with the theatrics can often annoy a judge hearing your case and end up doing more harm than good. I advise my clients to be calm and authentic and let the truth speak for itself. Below are additional tips for testifying in a family law case:
1. Be honest
2. Maintain eye contact with your attorney and/or the judge
3. Listen carefully
4. Manage your emotions
5. Dress presentably
6. Don’t use negative body language or facial expressions
7. If an attorney objects, stop talking and wait for the judge’s instruction
8. If you don’t know, say you don’t know
9. Use appropriate language
10. Remain calm
Other Things to Know About Your PA Divorce Hearing
If you and your spouse are able to work out a mutually agreeable settlement, your court appearances will be short. You may only need to attend the final divorce hearing. If you have a contentious divorce, you and your ex may need to go to court several times. No matter your circumstances, it is important that you make a positive impression in divorce court.
If you are still nervous, speak with your lawyer. He or she will explain exactly what will happen during your divorce hearing. He or she can also help you prepare.