Mistakes to Avoid in Family Court
Most people are not familiar with the ins and outs of the legal process, and many encounter it for the first and only time when they get divorced. Any lawsuit is apt to trigger strong emotions, but the personal nature of divorce makes controlling one’s reactions more difficult, and this stress can come to a boiling point when confronting the other spouse in the courtroom. A lot rides on the outcome of a divorce, and doing things to get the judge’s attention in a negative way will not help a person’s case, and can hurt a person’s chances at getting the result he/she wants. Further, when a person is not familiar with legal procedure, they may not know what is expected or allowed, and thus may make unintended mistakes during a hearing or at trial before a judge. Creating this type of situation is definitely not in a spouse’s best interest, but knowing some key dos and don’ts for courtroom appearances in family law cases can make a big difference in how the judge perceives a party and views his/her argument.
Things Not to Do
One important point to keep in mind is that judges have full dockets and do not like to be kept waiting or have parties in a case engage in disruptive behavior. A recent example of this occurred at a divorce hearing between Rudy Giuliani and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Judith Nathan. Reports state that Giuliani used expletives and had several outbursts of temper during the proceeding, and the judge referred to it as a “circus” at one point. Given that the hearing related to requested spousal support and other financial assistance, not following proper decorum will make it more difficult to convince the judge of the merits of his position.
Unless directly addressed by the judge, or giving testimony as part of trial, parties to a family law case should let their attorneys do the talking and refrain from making unsolicited and extraneous comments in the courtroom. Further, when addressing the court, do not speak in a casual manner that could indicate the party does not take the proceeding seriously or is not invested in his/her argument. Instead, be respectful and respond in a professional and succinct manner to show the judge the argument is worth considering. Related to this point, do not use the time in front of the judge to complain about all the supposed offenses of the other spouse. The judge is only interested in resolving the issues in the case based upon the facts and law, not the grievances and hurt feelings of the parties. Finally, do not show up in shorts or anything less than professional dress. Even if a person does not own a suit or sport jacket, a collared shirt, slacks and a sweater are acceptable and will avoid triggering the court’s ire.
On the other side, here are some things a spouse can do during a courtroom appearance that are entirely acceptable and may help strengthen the presentation of the case:
- If possible, visit the courthouse a day or two in advance to become familiar with the layout and help banish some lingering nerves;
- Pause before answering a question to gather thoughts and allow one’s attorney to possibly object;
- Ask for clarification if the question posed is not understood;
- Ask for water or a break if one becomes overwhelmed; and
- Look at the judge and attorneys involved in the case when they are speaking, which shows a party takes the proceedings seriously.
Get Legal Advice from a Florida Attorney
The legal process can appear overwhelming from the outside, and the stresses of divorce do not make dealing with this unknown any easier. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can take a lot of this strain off your shoulders by leaving the procedural issues to them, so you can focus on reorienting your life. The team at All Family Law Group, P.A. understands the demands of divorce and are here to help you get through the process as smoothly as possible. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay for a free consultation. They can be reached at 813-672-1900.