Whether your case involves child custody, support, or visitation, you might feel overwhelmed the first time you are required to appear in family court. While it’s normal to be nervous before stepping into the courtroom for the first time, knowing what to expect in advance can help put your mind at ease. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind when you are preparing for your appearance in family court.
1. Document Your Case and Keep Organized
In the weeks leading up to your court appearance, make sure you collect any necessary evidence you might need to establish your case. If your case involves a custody dispute, take notes concerning any events, communications, or conversations that might be relevant. For cases involving child support, be sure to have any receipts, pay stubs, proof of income, and other documentation available that you may be required to present in court.
2. Discuss Your Concerns With Your Attorney
Before going into family court, schedule a time to speak with your attorney. They can let you know what to expect at the hearing, and address any questions or concerns you have. Your attorney might also want to review any testimony you may have to provide at the hearing, and go over questions they anticipate that the judge might ask.
3. Get Familiar with the Courthouse
Try to visit the courthouse before your appearance. This way, you can be familiar with the route you will need to travel and how long it will take to get there. You can also get a good idea of how much extra time you will need to park, go through security, and make your way to the courtroom. If possible, you might also consider observing a few hearings with the judge who will be hearing your case to get familiar with the environment and the courtroom procedures.
4. Prepare the Night Before the Court Appearance
Even though you likely have a lot weighing on your mind, try to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before your court appearance. A family court appearance can end up being a long day, and it’s important to be refreshed and alert. The day before, you should also pack any essentials you will need to get you through the day, such as a few extra pens, a note pad, a snack, and a water bottle. Also, make sure you have extra copies of relevant documents you might need to provide to the court.
5. Dress Neatly and Respectfully
You don’t need to wear a costly suit or purchase a new outfit for your court appearance. However, it’s critical to dress neatly and professionally in the courtroom. The way you present yourself can demonstrate your respect for the court and how seriously you are taking your case. When planning your outfit, think about what you would for a job interview. Women and men should both opt for business-casual attire and avoid jeans, flip flops, sneakers, loud patterns, or overstated jewelry.
6. Arrive on Time
Being on time for your family court appearance is crucial. When you arrive at court, you will have to go through security and walk through the building to your courtroom — this can take some time. Additionally, once you reach the courtroom, you will have to check-in. The court generally follows a specific docket for the day and if you are not there when your case is called, you could potentially risk dismissal.
7. Turn Off Your Cell Phone in the Courtroom
Before you step foot into the courtroom, ensure that your phone and any other electronic devices are on silent mode. Not only is it disrespectful to the court if your phone rings during a hearing, but many judges do not take kindly to such disruptions. If you need to use your phone, step outside to an area where cell phone use is permitted.
8. Know How to Address the Court
In court, there are certain customs that are followed. Although you aren’t expected to know every courtroom procedure, you must act appropriately and respectfully. Significantly, when addressing the judge, you should always refer to them as “Your Honor,” and answer their questions truthfully. When an attorney, the opposing party, or the judge is speaking, you should not interrupt or get into a heated argument — not only is this disrespectful, but it can be detrimental to your case.
9. Keep Your Emotions in Check
A family court appearance can be emotionally charged. However, it is imperative to remain calm and composed regardless of what happens in the courtroom. If the judge didn’t rule in your favor and you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your case, you can speak with your attorney concerning the best strategy to move forward.
10. Make Sure Your Children’s Best Interests Come First
In any family court case, it is necessary to make sure your children’s best interests are always put first throughout the process. Talk with your children as little as possible about the litigation, and avoid saying anything negative about their other parent. No matter how contentious your custody or support battle, your child should not be put in the middle — they deserve to foster a happy and healthy relationship with each of their parents.
Contact an Experienced Fresno Family Law Attorney
Going to court for child custody, support, or another family law issue can be stressful. Having a knowledgeable family law attorney on your side can help to relieve the emotional burden and ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Providing compassionate counsel and skillful representation, The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks is dedicated to helping clients achieve favorable results for a wide variety of family law matters.
The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been assisting clients throughout Fresno and the surrounding area with their divorce and family law matters for over 20 years. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 272-8359.