Take these courtroom survival tips to heart and make the most of your day in front of the family law judge.

Going to court is rarely easy — including for attorneys.  You can help the case proceed as smoothly as possible with these courtroom survival tips:

Arrive at least 15 minutes early to court: In family law, attorneys are required to “meet and confer” prior to the hearing in an effort to try to resolve the issues that have brought you to court. For your attorney to have meaningful discussions, you need to be there. Unless you are present, your attorney cannot reach agreements with the other side. So, be there early and ready to compromise on the less important issues.

Do not bring in last-minute evidence: Law and Order (and other television shows) do not accurately depict how a courtroom operates — especially a Family Law Courtroom. Despite what you see in these TV shows, it is rare that a court will allow last-minute evidence to be presented at the hearing. Instead, such evidence must be given to your attorney several weeks prior to the court date so that they can properly present it to the court. If the evidence was available before the court date, the first question out of the judge’s mouth will be “Why are you presenting this now?” The judge will not be happy with either you or your attorney.

Dress like you are going to an important job interview: It is a sad comment on our society that courtrooms have prominent signs on display that read: “No flip flops, No tube tops, No shorts, No pajamas, and No gum.” Dress like you want to be taken seriously. If you can’t manage to make yourself look presentable, the court is not going to trust your judgment when it comes to your child or your finances. Also, remember that in most cases you are in front of older people who are not accustom to tattoos. If you have tattoos, cover them.

Keep quiet and don’t make gestures – like rolling your eyes: You hired your attorney to represent you in court. Your attorney, and not you, knows what facts in your case should be highlighted and what facts should be down played. Trust your attorney. Write on a pad any information you want your attorney to know and then let him/her do their job. You will likely hear the other side say things that upset you. Remain unfazed. In one of my cases, the other side rolled their eyes at something I said to the judge. Right then and there the judge gave my client $10,000 in attorney’s fees. No eye roll is worth paying $10,000 over.

Family court is hardly ever a forum where one person “wins” everything. Set realistic goals. Be prepared to get some of what you want, but not everything. Otherwise, you will feel disappointed and defeated.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle L. Stowell is a shareholder and a California Bar Certified Family Law Specialist. She regularly represents business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce and related actions. She also writes and speaks regularly on family law issues, with particular emphasis on divorce involving children with special needs. Based in Folsom, California, FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC can be reached at info@foresterpurcell.com or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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