Family court proceedings are often emotionally charged and it is normal to feel anxious about an upcoming court date. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to get to any given court hearing and understanding what to expect and how to approach the situation can alleviate feelings of nervousness and help you approach each hearing with your best foot forward.
Getting Your Hearing Date
Many family law proceedings typically involve multiple court dates and unless it is an ex-parte hearing you will have weeks, or even months notice depending on the county in which your hearing is set to take place. Depending on the type of hearing, there are certain things that parties must complete before the hearing. These instructions are usually given to the parties by the judge presiding over their case.
If you receive a hearing date that conflicts with your schedule, it is important to timely notify your attorney if you are represented by one, and timely notify the court of this conflict in order to best accommodate all parties involved.
What To Wear
What you wear to your hearing can greatly impact how you are perceived by the judge and other parties involved. Proper attire sends a message of seriousness and respect to the court. It is important to dress in clean, modest, and professional clothing. In general, avoid wearing casual or revealing attire as it may distract from the proceedings. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were attending a business meeting or a professional job interview. It is also important to ensure that your personal hygiene is taken care of in order to ensure an overall proper appearance.
Examples of Items to Avoid Include:
Sweatpants, sweatshirts and track suits
Tight or revealing clothing
Examples of Proper Courtroom Attire Include:
Slacks or dark pants
Dresses or skirts below the knee
In addition to attire, it is essential to always remain respectful to the opposing party, the judge, court staff, and others around you. When addressing the judge, always use respectful language and titles such as “You Honor.” Speak clearly and audibly, maintaining eye contact with the judge when appropriate. Avoid interrupting others while they are speaking, especially the judge or opposing party and their counsel. Avoid speaking negatively or loudly of the opposing party even while you wait for your case to be called. Avoid chewing gum while in the courtroom. Lastly, during your hearing, it is important to be aware of your body language. There will be times when you do not agree with what the judge, opposing party or their counsel is saying, but it is important to maintain your composure and avoid displays such as eye-rolling, muttering under your breath, exasperated sighs, overly suggestive hand gestures, tapping, fidgeting, etc.
Attending Your Hearing
Punctuality is very important because it demonstrates your commitment to the proceedings and shows respect for the court’s time. It also allows you to gather your thoughts and review any documents with your attorney. The following is a list of important information to know beforehand:
The courthouse address
The courtroom number where your hearing is set to take place
Where to park and how far the parking is located from the courthouse
What is permitted and what is not permitted to bring into the courthouse
If your hearing is remote: how and when to log in to your hearing
Additionally, depending on the nature of the hearing, you should expect to be at the courthouse anywhere from 2-4 hours or more. It is important to plan ahead of time by coordinating things such as childcare, work schedules, appointments, etc. to account for the amount of time you will be at your hearing.
On the date of your hearing, please allow yourself enough time to travel to the courthouse based on estimated traffic. It is also important to arrive at the courthouse at least 15 minutes prior to allow time for parking, passing through the security lines at the entrance of the courthouse (which can often be quite long), and finding your designated courtroom. Finally, it is important that your phone and any other noise emitting devices are silenced while you are in the courthouse.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Navigating family court proceedings with respect, decorum, and appropriate attire is crucial for presenting yourself in the best possible light. It is essential to follow the outlined courtroom etiquette guidelines and to dress professionally to show your respect for the court and present yourself in a positive manner. Remember, every action you take in the courtroom contributes to how the judge perceives you and your commitment to your case. By showing respect and dressing appropriately, you demonstrate your dedication to the matter at hand and your willingness to cooperate.
At Harris & McKeown Law Firm, we believe that presentation, alongside preparation, is of the utmost importance in every family law case. Our diligent and experienced Certified Family Law Specialists have been assisting clients throughout Orange County and the surrounding Southern California area with their divorce and family law matters for over 10 years.
If you would like to discuss your family law matters in a confidential consultation with a Southern California family law attorney, schedule an appointment online or by calling (949) 297-6529.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.