When the time comes to court cases, self-representation in custody trials is important. You need to:
- Show that you can provide a safe, secure home for your child to visit.
- Prove that you can financially support yourself and your child if you are looking for joint or sole physical custody.
- You might also need to raise concerns about whether your child’s other parent is fit or whether they can provide a safe environment.
In addition to having a solid case, however, there are some intangible factors that could affect the outcome of the case. It’s important to understand how some of these “unofficial” factors could sway the judge when it comes to awarding custody to you or your child’s other parent.
How You Dress and Present Yourself
If you were to show up to court wearing inappropriate clothing, the judge might form a bias against you without even hearing your case. You want to be sure to present yourself well and make a good first impression. The best way to do this is to dress appropriately.
Don’t wear anything that is dirty, wrinkled, too small, or too large. If you do not have an outfit that looks nice and fits well, it’s worth acquiring one, whether that means going to the mall, checking out a thrift store, or borrowing something from a friend.
Wear dark or neutral colors. Men should wear a pair of dress pants and a button-down shirt. A tie is a nice addition. If the weather calls for it, you can add a suit jacket. Wear dress shoes, not sneakers. Women should wear dress pants or a skirt; if you choose a skirt, make sure it’s knee-length or longer. Wear a top that fits well and that doesn’t have a low neckline. It’s better to err on the side of dressing too conservatively than to go in the other direction, so keep that in mind. Pumps with a low or moderate heel are best. No one should wear shorts, jeans, or flip-flops to court.
Knowing the Proceedings of Court Cases
While you won’t be quizzed on the way a case progresses, knowing what to expect when it comes to courtroom procedures can help you stay calm and avoid speaking out of turn. Your legal advocacy group can help you understand how the case will go. You should know when to sit and when to stand (rise when the judge enters the room and stand to speak).
In addition, knowing what documents you need to submit prior to the trial and what evidence you’ll need to bring up or talk about during the trial itself can prove invaluable. You’ll be better prepared and less likely to be caught in a situation where you don’t know how to answer a question or where you are fumbling for paperwork.
Using Proper Courtroom Decorum
You need to know how to conduct yourself properly and use correct courtroom etiquette so you don’t find that the judge has a poor opinion of you before the trial even begins. Being aware of etiquette rules can also keep you safe from being held in contempt of court.
For example, you should always rise when the judge enters the room. Also, address the judge as “your Honor,” not as “Judge Brown” or “Mr. Brown.” When asked a question that requires a yes or a no, follow it with “sir” or “ma’am.” Make sure your phone is turned off; even putting it on silent can be a distraction to you or others. Don’t make or take telephone calls or text anyone while in the courtroom.
Be sure to arrive early for your courtroom appearance. You will need to leave time to park your car and walk over to the courtroom. Familiarize yourself with the location of the court and the parking lot or parking garage; in some areas, you might have to use a lot that is a block or more from the courthouse, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time. Also, keep in mind that you might have to go through security. Find out from the clerk of the court or your legal resource group how early you should be for your appearance; in most cases, you will want to be there at least 30 minutes early.
How to Best Prepare for Your Court Appearance
It’s important to be as prepared as you can be before you enter the courtroom. Many people prepare by hiring an attorney, but many others find the cost to be prohibitive. A great way to save money while learning how to represent yourself and prepare yourself to appear in court is to use a legal advocacy group like National Family Solutions.
This group will be comprised of legal professionals such as attorneys, parental evaluators, psychologists, and others. They can work as a team to help you learn how to best prepare for your court appearance. You can receive counsel on what to wear, what to expect, and how to act.
Even more importantly, a legal resource group will help you get all of your paperwork completed correctly and filed on time. When you join this type of group to help you through your divorce and custody trial, you will feel comfortable and empowered, knowing that you are as prepared as you possibly could be.
No one wants to go through a divorce or fight for the custody of their children. If you have found yourself in a situation where this is necessary, know that you are not alone. There are many people in similar circumstances who need to pull together a court case with no previous courtroom experience.
It’s important to consider all of the intangible factors that could make or break your case. Consulting with one of the legal professionals at National Family Solutions will give you the peace of mind and information needed to make the right decision for you. Call us today to see if we can help you navigate this journey.