In most cases, a divorce settlement is arrived upon through some form of alternative dispute resolution. For those who are unable to come to an agreement, their case is then taken to court. A court trial is costly in both dollar terms and emotions. Unlike arbitration, mediation and collaborative law, a courtroom is public and so are the transcripts of the trial. If you have tried all other forms of dispute resolution then here are some things to consider when going to court:
Keep your wits about you
Because divorce court trials are public you will need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Your lawyer will be airing your personal disputes with a judge, and if the case requires it, a jury.
- A courtroom is no place to be having yelling matches, bickering, and the like. Be calm and posed. You have managed your divorce this far, don't let yourself fall apart now.
- If you have been up front and honest with your lawyer (and they with you) during the entire process then you have every reason to feel confident in what you are asking the judge to decide upon. Show your confidence and dignity in your demeanor.
- Before stepping foot in a courtroom, you and your attorney need to have a strategy- how are you going to get what you are asking for? Have honest, real conversations with your lawyer about how you can work together as a team.
- If you are finding that you need some emotional support you may want to consider joining a support group. You can also confide in a friend or relative who perhaps has also gone through a divorce. Remember a lawyer is not trained to be your therapist.
Dress the part- divorce court attire
Aside from the occasional jury duty and traffic violation, you have probably not had to go to court or had to think about what you would wear. What may be obvious to some, is not to others.
According to attorney Marlene Browne, "the way you appear in court (called demeanor evidence) is another kind of legitimate "fact" the court can, and will, weigh when determining what will happen in your case- seriously ask whether you appear deserving of the relief (or judgement) you ask."
- Clothing: Dress neatly and simply. Iron those shirts, pants, skirts, suits and dresses. Wear shoes, not sneakers and be sure they are cleaned or polished. Bright colors and large patterns will only distract the court from hearing your side of the dispute. Direct their attention to what you are saying, not what you are wearing.
- Jewelry: Keep accessories to a minimum- chain necklaces, large dangling earrings, large bracelets or rings. Even if you are wealthy, there is no need to flaunt it in the courtroom.
- Other: Keep make-up clean and light. Hair should be well groomed.
How long will it take
Divorce proceedings can last up to several years depending up the complexity of the case and the willingness of the parties to work out an agreement. When taking your case to trial you are at the mercy of the court's schedule. More often then not, your case will require more than one court visit and subsequent court visits may not be scheduled consecutively, so be prepared to wait. Because months can pass between hearings in your case, it is important that you stay in close contact with your team of professionals.
For more information on how a court trial is laid out check out "The Divorce Process: Empowerment Through Knowledge", by Marlene Browne in our Books area.