Look, nobody wants to go to trial in a divorce case, but like I’ve mentioned before, the road to divorce is fraught with unexpected twists and turns that might send you straight to the courtroom. In case your only experience with the justice system has been watching Judge Judy in your sweatpants, NEVER FEAR! Here is a handy-dandy guide for how to handle yourself in a court of law.
- For The Love Of God, Wear Something Appropriate. You might not think it’s fair to be judged based upon something as frivolous as clothing, but if you wouldn’t wear hot pants and a tube top to a wedding, DO NOT wear them in front of the judge. Bear in mind, it only takes a tenth of a second for people to form a first impression of you, so leave your jorts and graphic t-shirts at home and opt for something a little more professional.
- Don’t Invite The Squad. It’s time to drop some hard truths: Grandpa Lewis, Aunt Betty, and Kyle, your Monster Energy-drinking BFF, really don’t need to be present for your divorce hearing. If you absolutely can’t go it alone, pick no more than two people who you can trust to dress appropriately and sit quietly throughout the length of the proceedings.
Shut UpSpeak When Spoken To. It should go without saying that you’re not supposed to interrupt a judge in the middle of a hearing, but stupid is as stupid does. Your attorney has been hired to represent you, so let them do the talking unless the judge addresses you directly. If you are asked to speak, keep your responses short and sweet before you dig your own grave.
- Address The Judge Appropriately. Courtroom etiquette is a whole thing, so listen up. The only appropriate way to address the bench is with “Your Honor,” so if you find out your judge’s name is Chuck, avoid using it at all costs. Chuck is not your friend. Chuck doesn’t want to be your friend. Chuck would happily throw you out of the courtroom and hit up Applebee’s afterward, so don’t think for a moment you’re on a first name basis. If you have a matter that you’d prefer not to be addressed in open court, politely ask for permission to approach the bench unless you have a hankering to get yelled at by the bailiff.
- Put On Your Big Boy/Girl Pants And Stay On Task. Your ex might be a lying liar who lies, but keeping your cool in the courtroom is crucial if you want a successful outcome. Regardless of what’s being said, it’s important to avoid eye-rolling, hand gestures, and muttering under your breath in front of the judge. When it’s time to testify, be sure to listen to your attorney’s advice and avoid going off on a tangent.
- Be Polite. When it comes to the courtroom, school rules apply. In other words, don’t chew gum, don’t interrupt, don’t vape/smoke, and don’t bust out your snacks or drinks because you forgot to eat breakfast. No one wants to head to divorce court, but acting like a disgruntled teenager who’s been forced to ride the bus isn’t going to do you any favors. Always be courteous and respectful to everyone you meet, particularly the court officers and clerks. You want your case to be heard, don’t you?
- Your Kids Don’t Need The Dirty Deets. Going through a messy divorce can be hard, but save your late night rant sessions for your best friend and not your child. No courtroom wants to place a child in the middle of their parents’ battle, and neither should you. During your divorce your child will need comfort, reassurance, and a certain amount of stability, and it’s hard to provide that when you’re busy throwing darts at a cardboard cutout of your ex’s head.
- Turn Off Your Phone. Oh, you’re looking to get your phone confiscated? Bring it to court and forget to turn off the ringer and that’s exactly what will happen.
- Arrive Early. Being “fashionably late” doesn’t exist in the courtroom, and no one in the courtroom is going to give you a free pass because “it do be like that sometimes.” Attempting to arrive right on time is a recipe for disaster (think parking issues, road construction, or unexpected traffic accidents), so always plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early before your scheduled court appearance.