Statistically, most divorcing couples will never enter a courtroom. Instead, their cases will be decided through collaborative family law. In some situations, however, there comes a time when a judge will decide the couple’s fate. How you present yourself in the courtroom will have a direct impact on the outcome of your case. Here are the top tips to help you in the courtroom.
1. APPEARANCES COUNT
According to Steve Ashley, founder of the Divorced Fathers Network
, an individual’s appearance says a lot. “Sometimes men will show up to a courtroom and they may come right off of a job site,” Ashley said. “He may look like his life is all about work instead of preparing to talk to someone about a serious matter like his children.” On the other hand, Ashley said, it is possible to overdress for the occasion and appear “overly prosperous.”
Certified divorce coach and divorce support channel guide at About.com
, Cathy Meyer
agrees appearance is a big part of being successful in court. “Leave your cleavage at the door, dress conservatively,” Meyer said. “You don’t want to wear your diamond-studded earrings, don’t drench yourself in jewelry. Look like your common average person.” Meyer suggests men wear khaki dress pants and dress shirt to court. For women, she recommends a conservative pantsuit or dress. Overall, Ashley and Meyer both said what is most important is to dress professionally, yet truthfully. 2. WATCH YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
Along with a person’s appearance comes body language and communication. According to Ashley, one of the biggest mistakes a person can make in the courtroom is to not appear vested in the case. For example, Ashley pointed out that women tend to express their feelings more openly then men. Whereas men are more likely to focus on providing issues such as money and shy away from their feelings. “That can be detrimental to a man. If he will speak more about his feelings and his plans for his children he may do better in court and have a better chance of having shared parent arrangements,” Ashley said.
Ashley also stressed the importance of being involved the case. “I have had attorneys tell me that when a person comes in and hands their life over to the attorney, the parent becomes the caboose on the train,” he said. “The judges don’t like to see parents do that.”
For Ashley, this method has paid off when his ex-wife and spouse sought permission from the court to relocate with his daughter. “My argument was all about how this was not a practical move and how it was not a good move for our daughter,” Ashley said. “It was pretty clear to the court I was an involved parent.” What Ashley didn’t do was place blame on his ex-wife and dig up their history. “I wasn’t pointing fingers at my daughter’s mother,” he said. “I didn’t bring up anything from the past. They just don’t want to hear that.”3. BE HONEST, NO MATTER WHAT
According to Divorce360.com blogger Christina Rowe
, author of “Seven Secrets to a Successful Divorce,”
being truthful with the court is also vital. Rowe, who is divorced, uses her own courtroom experience as an example. “At our first court hearing my ex-husband was on the stand and asked by the judge if he had access to firearms. He answered ‘no,’” Rowe said. “Six months later two handguns that my husband had hidden were discovered. Even though the guns were not illegal, the judge was furious that he was lied to.” “From that moment on the judge was able to decipher who was telling the truth in our divorce. My husband lost all credibility by telling that lie,” Rowe said.
Meyer backs up Rowe’s statement. “Above all else, be honest,” she said. “Even if you've got something to say that is going to make you look bad, being honest about it is going to make you look good.” Meyer also said to discard any assumptions at the courtroom door. “Don’t go into court with assumptions, always go into court being humble. You can say ‘OK, I have the upper hand in this case.’ That arrogance is going to show in the courtroom. That is one thing the judge is going to look at. That judge has great discretion on how he rules.”
Lastly, Meyer added, when addressing the judge and courtroom staff, be sure to do so appropriately. Judges should be referred to as "Your Honor," and courtroom staff as "Ma'am" and "Sir." Additionally, when answering questions speak clearly and don’t use terms like "Yeah," "Nah," and so on.