Courtroom Manners: How to Behave in Divorce Court

There are certain rules of procedure that are used in a court.  These are really the rules of good conduct, or good manners, and are designed to keep things orderly.  Many of the rules are written down, although some are unwritten customs that have just developed over many years.  They aren’t difficult, and most of them do make sense.  Following these suggestions will make the judge respect you for your maturity and professional manner, and possibly even make him or her think you are a lawyer.  It will also increase the likelihood that you will get the things you request.

Show respect for the judge.  This basically means, don’t do anything to make the judge angry at you, such as arguing with him.  Be polite, and call the judge “Your Honor” when you speak to him or her, such as “Yes, Your Honor,” or “Your Honor, I have proof of my income.”  Although many lawyers address the judges as “Judge,” this is not proper.  Many of the following rules also relate to showing respect for the court.  This also means wearing appropriate clothing, such as a coat and tie for men and professional attire for women.  This especially means no T-shirts, blue jeans, shorts or “revealing” clothing.

Whenever the judge talks, you listen.  Even if the judge interrupts you, stop talking immediately and listen.  Judges tend to get angry when someone doesn’t let them interrupt.

Only one person can talk at a time.  Each person is allotted his or her own time to talk in court.  The judge can only listen to one person at a time, so don’t interrupt your spouse when it’s his or her turn.  And as difficult as it may be, stop talking if your spouse interrupts you.  This will give the judge a chance to tell your spouse to keep quiet and let you have your say.

Talk to the judge, not to your spouse.  Many people get in front of a judge and begin arguing with each other.  They actually turn away from the judge, face each other, and begin arguing as if they are in the room alone.  This generally has several negative results:  The judge can’t understand what either one is saying since they both start talking at once, they both look like fools for losing control, and the judge gets angry with both of them.  So whenever you speak in a courtroom, look only at the judge.  Try to pretend that your spouse isn’t there.  Remember, you are there to convince the judge that you should have certain things.  You don’t need to convince your spouse.

Talk only when it’s your turn.  The usual procedure is for the person who initiated the court action to present their case first.  When you are done saying all you came to say, your spouse will have a chance to say whatever he or she came to say.  Let your spouse have his or her say.  When he or she is finished you will get another chance to respond to what has been said.

Stick to the subject.  Many people can’t resist the temptation to get off the track and start telling the judge all the problems with their marriage over the past twenty years.  This just wastes time, and aggravates the judge.  So stick to the subject, and answer the judge’s questions simply and to the point.

Keep calm.  Judges like things to go smoothly in their courtrooms.  They don’t like shouting, name calling, crying, or other displays of emotion.  Generally, judges don’t like family law cases because they get too emotionally charged.  So give your judge a pleasant surprise by keeping calm and focusing on the issues.

Show respect for your spouse.  Even if you don’t respect your spouse, act like you do.  All you have to do is refer to your spouse as “Mr. Smith” or “Ms. Smith” (using his or her correct name, or course.)


Photo Credit:  Visual Hunt



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