Short tips and things to know guide on preparing for family law court hearings.
Be on Time
You should plan on being outside the courtroom 15 minutes before hearing time. Be aware that some days getting through security may take some time - so plan ahead!
Read all your moving papers/responses and the Declarations a few days prior to the hearing to refresh your memory.
The judge's/commissioner's do look at how you are dressed and groomed. Wear business-business casual (slacks, collared shirt, or skirt/blouse/dress. If you have someone come with you, inform them to dress similarly. (Please no shorts, sleeveless tops or anything revealing!)
Be Prepared to Wait Patiently
Court calendars are very busy - your case may be number 20, or 2, or 37. The court may need you to wait for your matter to be heard. It is not extraordinary for the court to be so busy that the court (or the parties) request a new date (continuance).
This is a difficult and emotional situation. Try to remain calm and level-headed. You may hear or see things that upset you, including things the opposing party or attorney may say. Understand that your reaction may make a situation worse. In front of the judge/commissioner never interrupt another person, always address everyone with respect, and do not react with eye rolling, exasperation or contempt to things others say. Always show respect for the judge/commissioner. You can ask questions of your attorney if you do not understand something. Under no circumstances should you argue with the judge or commissioner.
Be Prepared to Negotiate
Very often parties reach agreements outside the courtroom. Come with an idea of what you can live with. It may not be exactly what you want, but that is a compromise. Any agreement you work out is more personal to you than what a judge may order. Also, there is no "perfect" case and little is predictable. The court could rule against you just as easily as for you. Rarely does any party get everything they want.
Be in Contact with Your Attorney
You should come in for an office visit the week prior to the hearing if it is a complicated matter. You may just need to talk with the attorney on the phone, Either way, have a list of questions for the attorney. If you have not already done so, give the attorney your "wish list" of what you would like from the hearing. If it is a custody schedule, write it out on a calendar to be sure.