The piece of advice or reassurance that I provide to clients with the most frequency before a courtroom appearance is that the anxiety that we all possess surrounding events that we’ve never experienced before has more to do with a fear of the unknown that the actual event itself.
Very rarely has someone gone to court and testified, only to tell me that the actual experience itself was worse than he or she expected. It’s the unknown, and the apprehension that surrounds the unknown, that is often the worst part of beginning a family law case for many people.
While courtroom activities will most likely not be the biggest or most important aspect of your family lawcase, it is possible that you will have to spend some amount of time in a courtroom for a hearing or even a trial. With that said, knowing what to expect and how to manage the emotions and stressors related to filing a family law case and appearing in court are crucial.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to share with you some thoughts on this subject and provide you with a general overview of how to plan for a family law case in Texas.
Heading to Court: What to expect and how to manage those expectations
Whether you need to go to court to have a full-fledged trail on your divorce or child custodycase, or you and your attorney are simply appearing in front of the judge for an uncontested “prove up” hearing to conclude your case knowing how to conduct yourself in court is important.
Dressing for Court
I always hesitate to give advice to other grown people on how to dress. Most people (and you can probably count yourself among this group) are more than capable of dressing themselves for any event- court included. It doesn’t hurt though to make absolutely sure that you are aware of what is and what is not appropriate clothing to wear prior to stepping foot in court. After all, you can only make one first impression on a judge.
Neatness and cleanliness can make up for a lot in my experience. There is no need to go out to the mall for a new wardrobe the first time your attorney tells you that you have a court date coming up. Simply taking whatever professional clothing you have, piecing together an outfit, and then making sure that that outfit is clean can make a huge difference and save you money in the process.
If you’re a man, wearing a suit is never a bad bet but a collared shirt tucked into dress pants will do as well. Wash your shirt and pants, iron them if necessary and wear a pair of sensible and comfortable shoes. Your attorney may have told you that your hearing shouldn’t last more than an hour but he or she cannot control how quickly your case proceeds before the judge. You may be in court all day and you should dress comfortably to compensate for this.
If you’re a woman, a suit works just as well for you as it does for a man. Alternatively, a dress or pants/dress shirt combination works too. I will warn against wearing clothes that are overly revealing, tight or short. Keep your makeup and hair conservative- even if that is not your style.
Again, you don’t know how your judge will react to your appearance. It could be that he or she would be a fan of your day to day hairstyle. It’s just as likely, however, that he or she would not be a fan. Play it safe in this situation.
Conducting yourself in court
As my mom would say to my sister and me countless times when she or I were taking too long to get ready to go someplace: “It’s not a fashion show.” Upon further review, she was right.
After all- the only time anything is actually a fashion show is when you are in a real-life fashion show. Everything else is basically showing off. This is to say that your clothes are not overly important if you stick to the basic rules I laid down in the previous section.
The way you conduct yourself and act within the courthouse and your judge’s courtroom is another matter entirely. Your behavior is important and can have an effect on how a judge views you and your case.
Showing respect to your attorney, your opposing party, their attorney and all persons you come into contact with in the courthouse is critical. I say “courthouse” and not just “courtroom” because eyes will be on you as soon as you step into the building. Act as if the judge is watching your every movement while in the courthouse.
Your courtroom will likely have a bailiff to provide this instruction to you but I’ll warn you to turn off your cell phone prior to getting into court. In Harris County, there are numerous judges that will have their bailiff pick up any cell phone that goes off in their court and will hold onto it all day. This is an extreme example but I have seen this rule enforced and is wholly avoidable.
Food, drink, chewing gum, magazines or other “fun” items should not enter the courtroom with you. Once the judge enters the courtroom any light talking that you had been engaging in should cease and you should be prepared to remain silent unless spoken to by your attorney or other courtroom personnel.
Speaking up when your case is called
Eventually, your case will be heard by the judge. In some counties, you and your attorney will take seats at a table in front of the judge with your opposing party and their attorney at another table next to yours. If you’re at all familiar with TV shows that show courtroom scenes this should be familiar to you.
In other counties, like Harris, all parties and their attorneys will stand before the bench and conduct your hearing on your feet. Remember- I warned you about comfortable shoes!
If you are being asked a question in your hearing then it is your job to testify truthfully in a voice that is clear and loud enough to be heard by the court reporter who will be transcribing everything you say on the record. You may be a very casual person in your day to day life, but being formal in court is a smart idea. The judge is to be referred to as, “his/her honor” or “ma’am/sir”. Likewise- the opposing party isn’t “Debbie”, it’s “Mrs./Ms. [insert last name here]”.
It may happen that you feel like what the opposing party, or even the judge, is saying something that is not true or inaccurate. While this may be, you cannot interrupt someone while he or she is speaking in your hearing. Have a pad of paper handy and write down your issue and show it to your attorney when he or she is not questioning a witness.
In the event that you are providing an answer to a question and your attorney or opposing counsel offer an objection to the question or your response do not say anything. The judge is going to need to address that objection and make a ruling. The judge will instruct you to speak again when the time is appropriate.
Come back and join us tomorrow to learn more about the ins and outs of Texas Family Law cases
Obviously, this blog post and the ones to follow cannot take the place of specific legal advice from a licensed family law attorney.
For that, I would recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today to learn more about your case. In a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys, your questions can be answered in a comfortable environment.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case, Part Two
- 16 Steps to help you Plan and Prepare for your Texas Divorce
- How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case
- Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
- Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case, Part Two
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- Child Custody Geographic Restrictions in Texas
- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
- The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids
- Can a Parent remove My Child from the state of Texas or from the County or Country where I am living?
- Children's Passports and International Travel after Texas Divorce
- Child Custody Basics for Texas Parents Revisited
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC 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, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, 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.