Divorce Court Etiquette
Few litigants have been to court during their lifetime as a plaintiff or a defendant in a case. Their divorce case may actually be the first time in their lives that they see the inside of an actual courtroom, perhaps aside from serving on jury duty. It is not uncommon to be nervous or have questions about what to do or say, or even what to wear. First, always arrive at least 20 minutes before your scheduled time, but be prepared to wait until your case is called. Your attorney’s office will advise you on where to go and what time. Second, you must be respectful in the courtroom both in your demeanor and style of dress. Ripped clothing, yoga pants, flip-flops, shorts, sleeveless shirts, or gym outfits are examples of inappropriate dress in a courtroom.
Talking on cell phones, texting, and the use of electronic devices, is usually prohibited. You should be cautious about the conversations you have in the courtroom, as they are likely being recorded, even if you are sitting in the back rows. Sit quietly and remember that your voice carries even at a low volume. Discussions should take place outside to avoid disrupting the court.
When your case is called and you are sitting with your divorce attorney, remember that the judge will be watching your demeanor and facial expressions. Do not roll your eyes, slam down your hand or papers on the counsel table, laugh at the other litigant or their attorney, sigh, or smirk. You may even be asked a direct question by the Judge during a motion hearing or have to testify at trial. However, unless you are spoken to and asked a question, you do not address the judge as your attorney will communicate with the court on your behalf. These are just some examples of behaviors that judges, especially in the Family Part, often see due to the emotional aspect of divorce litigation. However, this sort of disruptive behavior does not go over well in the court. Believe it or not, some litigants just cannot help themselves and wind up negatively influencing the outcome of their case because they refuse to behave in court. Be respectful, courteous, and polite. The court staff and the judges are just trying to do their job. Lastly, remember that you should do all that you can to make a good impression on the judge, since they will be making important decisions in yours and your children’s lives.
At the Law Office of Sylvia S. Costantino, Esq., we are in courtrooms several times each week and have lots of opportunities just to observe how people act. We have seen clients make things worse for themselves, and others make a great impression. Come in today for your free initial consultation to discuss your divorce matter.