What To Do When You Attend Court.
If you have never attended court before, you may not have a clue what to expect. Here are a few basic tips on what to do when you attend court.
You do not have to wear a corporate suit; however, ensure that you are dressed for the occasion.
For men, I would recommend a suit if you have one; if not, trousers, a clean, ironed shirt tucked in, a blazer, and leather shoes will do.
For women, a skirt or pants and a blouse or long-sleeved dress with neat shoes, whether heeled or flat.
Do not wear singlets, jeans, T-shirts, thongs, sneakers, or hats. It is a court, so you should dress appropriately, just as you would if you were going to a job interview, church, or a wedding.
Get to the court early
Lots of the Federal Circuit Courts have interview rooms outside the courtrooms. If you get there early, you will be able to reserve one of these for the day. This gives you privacy, and you will not have to see your former partner until going into the court. Whenever we attend court with our clients, we get there super early for this very reason.
Bring water and snacks
There can be a lot of waiting around and possibly a lack of opportunities to go out to get a coffee or food. When you are waiting, you need to be ready at all times to be called into the court, so it is a good idea to be prepared with some snacks and water to keep you going.
Have no expectations
Often you don’t know who the judge will be, how busy the court will be, what other matters the court may need to hear, or what the other side may present to you or put forward to the court. Therefore, it is a good idea to not have expectations about how the day will go or what the outcome will be. There is a lot in this process that is simply out of your or your lawyer’s control. As lawyers, we have learnt to never have an expectation; as soon as you do, there is trouble.
Contain your emotions in the court
To the best of your ability, keep control of your body language and facial expressions when you are in court before the judge. Many times, I have seen the other side pulling faces, making loud noises (grunting, huffing, snorting, etc.) or, in general, giving off a very bad vibe. It looks very bad, and I would not want you or any of my clients to give any court such a terrible impression. Of course, I don’t mean you can’t be distressed. Just keep breathing, and try not to let your sadness, fear or even anger turn into rudeness or aggression.
Be respectful to the judge at all times
This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway because I have seen some shocking behaviour in court. If you have a lawyer on your side, you will not have the pressure of speaking to the judge; they, in fact, will not speak to you at all or hardly even acknowledge you. This is a good thing because then you are never at risk of saying the wrong thing. However, if you are self-represented, you will have to do all the heavy lifting yourself and be fully exposed to the judge. Even if you are displeased with what they say, always show a good attitude and be respectful. The judge is possibly going to make decisions about your life on your behalf, so this is not the person that you want to get offside.
Do not be afraid to negotiate
Particularly if you are self-represented, don’t be afraid to go and speak to the lawyer on the other side or your ex-partner (if they are self-represented) and use the time in court to resolve some, if not all, of the issues. Negotiating and communication are key to resolving your matter; you have the time while you are there, so use it to resolve as much as possible.
If you have a lawyer, they should most certainly be trying to negotiate on your behalf. You are paying them to be there with you, and that is their role, to be your advocate.