While most divorce cases are settled outside of the court room, highly contested actions often proceed to trial. During trial, each party and their respective attorneys will present evidence and argue their case, requesting that the judge rule in their favor. The thought of taking part in a divorce trial and testifying in court is scary, but with the right preparation, the experience can be considerably less daunting.
Meet with Your Attorney
Meeting with your attorney throughout the divorce process, especially in the weeks or days leading up to trial, is incredibly important. Regular contact will help to alleviate any last minute issues or concerns, and provide the time needed to thoroughly prepare documents and review information.
About a month or so before your first trial date, it is important to schedule an in-office meeting with your team of lawyers. During this time, you will be able to examine what documents and exhibits will be presented at trial, as well as discuss your legal strategy in greater detail. As your trial date approaches, you will need to consult with your attorneys again to run through the list of questions you will be asked while you are on the stand.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you are particularly nervous about testifying in front of a judge, then it is recommended you spend time practicing your responses to potential questions. Ask your lawyer for a copy of the questions you will be asked during trial, and write down your answers. Rehearse your answers, out loud, and in front of a mirror.
While you are obligated to respond honestly while testifying under oath, being the center of attention and sitting on the stand can be nerve-wracking. To avoid oversharing, providing false information, or answering a question that wasn’t necessarily asked, you should keep your responses short and to the point. Simple “yes” or “no” answers are perfectly sufficient. Only elaborate if asked.
Remember: the opposing counsel has been retained to represent your former spouse’s best interests, not yours. They are required to provide the best representation possible for their client, and will not hesitate to make you flustered, confused, or angry while on the stand. Practicing and keeping your answers short will help you remain calm and level-headed. It is best to not communicate with the opposing counsel outside of the courtroom.
A judge in Pennsylvania made headlines in February when he took a unique approach while addressing the attire litigants wore in his courtroom. Columbia County Judge Craig Long posted a sign in his courtroom declaring, “Pajamas are not appropriate attire for District Court” after noticing an increased number of people showing up to court in pajamas, sweat pants, and t-shirts.
First impressions matter, especially in court. Dressing appropriately shows that you respect the judge, their time, and are taking your case seriously. Avoid earing anything too revealing (crop tops or skin tight clothing), too casual (shorts or athletic attire), and hats. Appropriate courtroom attire consist of suits, blouses, and modest dresses or skirts. If you wouldn’t wear an outfit to work or an interview, then it is safe to assume that you shouldn’t wear it while appearing in front of a judge.
Mind Your Manners
Your attitude is just as important during a divorce trial as your readiness and appearance. Arrive to court on time and turn off your cell phone. Referring to the judge as “Your Honor,” “Sir,” or “Ma’am” is considered to be standard behavior, and is expected by both litigants and their attorneys. Never interrupt the judge, opposing counsel, or a witness while they are speaking, and direct all of your comments to your attorney in a hushed or quiet tone.
Acting erratically in court, or being disrespectful towards the judge or court officer, can have serious consequences. You can be held in contempt, and your court appearance can be cut short and adjourned to another day. Make sure you remain on your best behavior and mind your manners!
Hire Quality Representation
Hiring the right legal team to represent you throughout your divorce or child custody action is the best way to prepare for trial. It is not recommend that you proceed to a trial without a lawyer. The family law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. is comprised of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys who specialize in contested divorce litigation. Contact Brian and his staff for more information, or to schedule your confidential consultation, today!