Going to trial is the last thing anybody wants in a North Carolina divorce case. But unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid court. If your attorney advises you to go to trial, it is critical that you behave appropriately and adhere to the rules of the court.
Even the most seasoned trial lawyer will admit that no matter how many times he or she has entered the courtroom, it is still intimidating – every single time. Let us spare you the sweet talk and tell you the truth. Yes, court is nerve-wracking. That’s especially true in divorce cases where emotions are high and the stakes higher, particularly in matters involving children.
Now that the hard truth is out there, let’s talk about ways to make court a little easier to stomach.
- Listen to your lawyer: Before you go to family court, you can ask what you should generally expect to happen. Although there is no guarantee about what will actually transpire, your attorney should be able to give you reasonable ideas about the proceedings and caution you about possible complications. For example, if your case involves a dispute about child custody, you can anticipate that there will likely be some hurtful or embarrassing aspects of your character aired in public proceedings.
- Act like an adult: Yelling, rolling your eyes, finger-pointing and sulking are behaviors that won’t curry favor with a judge or jury in a divorce case. If you want to improve your chances of getting the result you want, take the high road.
- Dress appropriately: Your clothes make a statement about you and about your respect for the court. Dress conservatively in darker colors and avoid flashy patterns or jewelry. You don’t have to buy a $300 suit. Just remember that a well-groomed person makes a good first impression.
- Do not speak unless the judge asks you to: When you reply, make sure to address the judge as “Your Honor.”
- Take notes: If you hear things that you need to address with your lawyer, write them down and wait for an appropriate moment to bring them up. Interrupting your attorney is a distraction that could affect his or her ability to represent you effectively. Not only that, it could cost you more money in the long run if your interruption results in additional legal work.
- Tell your friends and family to stay home: In North Carolina, divorce proceedings are public. That means that everyone from your best friend to your nosy neighbor could show up in court one day. The added pressure will be taxing on you from an emotional perspective but could be even more of a problem if they have an outburst in the middle of the proceedings. Even the best intentions can have poor consequences.
- Don’t talk to your kids about it: Your children know you’re getting divorced. They know you’re going to court. You don’t have to give them every detail about your day in court. Answer their questions honestly, but in the most basic terms. If they do end up in court themselves, you don’t want them to inadvertently say something you should never have told them in the first place.
- Try to relax: It’s easier said than done. Have faith in your divorce lawyer to have your best interests at heart. Does that mean you shouldn’t ask questions if you’re unsure about how things are going? Of course not. But trusting your lawyer is the most important thing you can do to make your experience in court as easy as possible.