If you’ve managed to arrive at this blog post without reading the prior two installments in the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s series of articles on preparing for a Temporary Orders hearing it may be worthwhile to go back and read those posts. It’s not essential but the information contained in those posts is at the very least relevant if you are going through a divorce or child custody case in Texas.
With that said, in part three of our series on temporary orders hearings we will discuss some details of actual in-courtroom behavior- what to wear, what to say and how to generally conduct yourself.
What to wear in a Courtroom
In the event that you and your spouse are not able to settle on the relevant issues of your case, the next step would be to take your disputes to the courtroom and have a judge play tie breaker. This is an unsettling prospect for most people as they have (hopefully) never been inside a courtroom before. We have clients whose friends, neighbors, cousins, etc. have told them horror stories about their own divorce and how the judge treated them which causes a great deal of anxiety. The truth with going to court is that, while first impressions are important, it is rare to leave a courtroom with a true horror story to tell later on.
At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our attorneys advise a fairly modest, conservative style of dress when appeared before a judge. For women, this means dressing in clothes that you would feel comfortable wearing to church or to lunch with your grandmother. A dark colored dress that is not too short is desirable. Flashy jewelry and overly-done makeup is typically not appropriate in the courtroom.
For men, if you own a suit I would recommend you wear it. Even if you are as a casual sort of guy whose job doesn’t require getting dressed up, dust off that suit and put it on the morning of your hearing. At the very least it is recommended that you wear a tie.
I am not saying that any judge in southeast Texas mandates that you drive to your local mall and spend $1,000 on a suit. What I am saying is that appearances matter in this context.
Appearances matter because the judge will be assessing your ability to manage finances and children in a temporary orders hearing. Like it or not, judges form biases and opinions like all of us do. How you dress can contribute positively or negatively to your image in the eyes of the only person in the world whose opinion matters in your case- the judge.
Tips on your in-court demeanor
When I speak to a client either the day before or the day of their testimony in court, I always tell them that I understand nothing that I say can put them completely at ease. I’ve been an attorney long enough to know that if you’re nervous to speak in front of the court then I as the attorney can at most help to narrow your focus on the issues that truly matter in your case. It is natural to be nervous, or at least a little anxious, before giving testimony to a judge. There are some behaviors that I will flat out advise a client to never do prior to coming to court.
For instance, never take any sort of drugs, medicines or consume alcohol prior to arriving at the courthouse. You may feel initially like you’ve been successful at taking the edge off, but in reality your mouth and your mind will begin to move at different speeds making coherent testimony nearly impossible. If you believe that you will feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable in the courtroom you are probably right. However- your feeling of discomfort will be multiplied by a factor of 1,000 if you consume drugs or alcohol beforehand. Just don’t do it.
Perception is Important when in Court
How you conduct yourself, from the second your foot hits the pavement outside the courtroom prior to your hearing to the moment you drive away from the courthouse after your hearing is complete, is critical to your chances of success in the actual hearing. Taking a reserved, respectful, and courteous approach to your time in court is the recommended path to take in this regard.
If you are the type of person who is quick to laugh, or quick to raise your voice, take some time before you enter the courtroom to temper your emotions. While you may think your personality and appearance is harmless, judges form opinions of you based on how you act in their courtroom as well as on what you say when on the witness stand. Don’t take the chance that your actions in court could be misinterpreted. Self awareness is an important aspect of being an adult. In no place is this more true than a courtroom.
How to conduct yourself in regard to a jury
Family law cases are usually held in front of judges, not juries. That being said there are instances where a jury may be the decider of your case or at least certain issues in your case. The best rule of thumb from my experience is, if you come into contact with a juror outside the courtroom, to be courteous but to decline conversation. Any party to a legal case who is perceived to have had contact with a juror without the knowledge of the other party or court stands to face stiff penalties for doing so.
At a past work location of mine our office had a trial set to begin one morning at the courthouse. A junior attorney came along that day to assist the senior attorney with presenting our client’s case. This junior attorney was a nice guy but he was a talkative fellow. Upon entering the men’s room he struck up a conversation with a gentleman and began to discuss the trial that was forthcoming. Little did he know that the gentleman was actually a juror on the case. The juror reported the nature of his and our attorney’s conversation to the court staff and the judge was not pleased to learn about what had occurred.
There was no penalty assessed against our client but there very well could have been. The purpose of me telling this little anecdote is to warn you against unnecessary conversation or contact inside the courtroom, in the hallways or even, yes, in the men’s bathroom. Don’t think of yourself as being rude if you don’t say hello and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. You’re in court for business purposes (even though it’s your family you’re there to discuss) and you should treat it that way.
Free consultations with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
To learn more about the Houston divorce attorneys, staff and services offered by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We will return with another blog post on Temporary Orders hearings in the near future as well.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part One
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part Two
- Do I need Temporary Orders in my Texas Divorce?
- Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- The Divorce Temporary Orders Guide
- Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
- Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.