What Not To Do At a Divorce Hearing
A divorce hearing can be an emotional time for both parties. However, it is important that, if you are one of the parties, you keep your cool and behave appropriately in the court room. If you don’t, things may well go against you on the day and if you have children this can simply add to the trauma of the whole situation. Once the process server has delivered your papers and you have a date, you should be learning how to conduct yourself. With that in mind, here are some of the things you should not be doing at a divorce hearing:
- Don’t Antagonise The Judge: From your point of view, the judge is the most important person in the room so you should never, ever give them any reason to hold you in contempt. Don’t argue with them or interrupt them and always be mindful of their orders and comments. If you create a bad impression of yourself in front of the judge it is only your own chances that you are damaging as they will be left with a very unfavourable impression of you. This means the results of the hearing could go against you, or if you go to a full trial with the same judge, they will very likely remember your behaviour.
- Don’t Be Scruffy: As with any important formal event in life – be it a job interview or court appearance – your appearance can either create a positive or a negative first impression. Obviously with something as serious as your divorce hearing you want it to be the former. After all, it could be to decide custody of your children or to determine what financial entitlements the other party may have. If you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt then rightly or wrongly you will not come across as ‘serious’ about the situation. Formal attire is therefore essential.
- Don’t Be Late: If the documents delivered to you by the process server state that you have to be at the court by nine, then that is when you should be there. Even if your case isn’t actually heard until later, you will still be expected to let an official (often the bailiff) know that you have arrived. Lateness could be seen as a sign of disrespect and could even result in the case being overturned, so make sure you set off extra early just to be on the safe side.
- Don’t Address Opposing Counsel: Unless you’re representing yourself, there is no reason why you should be addressing any of your remarks to the opposing counsel. Your own counsel will do this for you. Even if you’re representing yourself, you should try to avoid interrupting the opposing counsel as you will get your own chance to speak in due course.
- Don’t Engage With Your Opponent: The court room is certainly not the place to enter into a war of words with the other party, regardless of how bitter you feel or how much you feel you are ‘in the right’. Try not to exchange any words with them at all, whatever is said, but instead leave the talking up to your council or address only their council if you are there to represent yourself. This is an important point to remember as it can be very difficult to keep quiet sometimes in cases where emotions are involved.
- Don’t Be Unprepared: There is no excuse for going to your hearing without a thorough knowledge of your case and what the proceedings will be. You could consider talking to a family law advisor beforehand so you know what all the possible outcomes could be. Visit your local country court website to see if this gives any useful information on divorce proceedings in your area and the judges who usually preside over these kinds of cases. Take a notebook with you to the proceedings so you can write down the order of the court (the decision the judge comes to after they have heard all the arguments) as well as any other important occurrences during the course of the hearing.
Summary: A divorce hearing can be an emotional time for both parties, but it’s important you stay calm in court and keep you head. This article looks at what not to do at one of these hearings to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
An article by Chris Jenkinson who writes for Process Server Bristol, a professional process serving company.