Sunday, June 7, 2015

Going to Court

              For lots of people -- even for many attorneys -- going to court is a bit nerve wracking.  The judge sits up higher than everyone else -- "on the bench", approachable only behind "the bar," with permission.  It can evoke thoughts of "The Wizard of Oz."  And then there's the court personnel, including the bailiff, who is carrying a gun.  And you can only speak at certain times.  For good reason, most judges keep their courtrooms pretty well controlled.   It can be an intimidating atmosphere.
               If you're in court on your family law matter, chances are something serious and very important to you is about to be decided and naturally this could make you nervous.  Understandably.  The decision can often "go either way" and you might not know what the judge will decide (this is one reason I often counsel my clients to try to come to an agreement instead of going to court -- but "settling versus litigating" is the topic for another blog post).   
               All of this means that going to court could very likely cause some anxiety.  To calm your nerves, it might help to prepare yourself for your courtroom experience.  One thing I often suggest is for people to go to court on a day before their own court date simply to observe.  That way when you walk into the courtroom on the morning of your hearing, it isn't the first time you've been there and when it's your day in court, you will have some familiarity with the setup and with the process.  For many court hearings, you are allowed to sit in the spectator section and watch the proceedings on other matters, matters in which you have zero emotional attachment.  You might find it interesting or you might find it boring but in either case, it will help to demystify the process.
               If you are represented by counsel, of course, speak with your attorney about any questions you have or for any specific advice they can give you.  In general, it is good to get a decent night of  sleep before the hearing.  Also you should dress "appropriately" -- again, you can speak with your attorney if you have questions, but in general this means no ripped jeans, no bare midriffs, no hats, etc.  Dress as if you are going for a job interview. 
  • The S.F. D.A.'s office tips contain some good general advice applicable to family law courtrooms as well,
  • Introduction to the Court, general tips re going to court in Contra Costa Co.,