The contentious nature of divorce is a challenging experience for everyone, whether you are beginning the process or you are waiting for the ink to dry on your decree. Almost universally, however, the most intimidating aspect for divorcing clients is actually stepping foot into court.
Since most people do not have much familiarity with courtroom procedure, this can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience. The importance of conducting yourself properly during your hearings cannot be overstated -- the judge presiding over your case is extremely busy and you have a very limited amount of time to make a positive impression.
Because your courtroom demeanor can influence a judge's opinion and thus the possible outcome of your divorce, it is important to begin preparing yourself for what to expect when your day in court arrives.
Strategize with your attorney
You should never have to go into a hearing blind. Good divorce attorneys will always brief their clients on what the hearing will cover, what your role will be, an outline of how the hearing is conducted and what to expect.
No matter the type of hearing you are attending, be sure to set time aside with your attorney to review the fine details of what is going to be discussed and what the process entails so you are not caught off guard.
With the advice of an experienced attorney, you will feel much more comfortable standing before the judge.
Dress for success
While society may have become more relaxed on what is considered proper business attire, a courtroom is not the place to sport your casual Friday apparel.
The courthouse is an institution that demands respect, and how you dress can be perceived as a reflection of the respect you are showing.
A good rule of thumb is to dress and groom yourself for court as if you are going to a job interview. A plain, nondescript suit and tie is the best option, and you should make sure that you are clean with your hair combed and your beard trimmed.
It is also a good idea to avoid dressing above your means. If you are trying to argue that you cannot afford high maintenance payments, an Armani suit will contrast with your statements regarding your ability to pay.
Show respect to everyone
While it is obvious that you must treat the judge with respect, how you conduct yourself when answering questions from the opposing counsel is just as important.
Although you may feel opposing counsel is the enemy and it is only natural to get angry about untrue accusations, you must remain calm and not let your emotions get the better of you -- respectful responses to blatantly false allegations will go much farther with the judge's perception of you than angry outbursts.
While it may be difficult at times and you may feel a lack of respect from others (including the judge), taking the high road is a far better way to make a strong and positive impression on the court.
Even when it is not your turn to speak or someone else has center stage, how you conduct yourself can influence the judge. Body language can be just as loud as screaming, so you must keep yourself under control at all times.
Shooting daggers at your ex whenever you look her way, rolling your eyes when someone else is speaking, shaking your head when you disagree, etc., will not help your cause and will be perceived as disrespectful.
Keeping a poker face while horrific allegations are leveled against you will be challenging, but you must focus on keeping your expressions and actions neutral.
Do your best to present an image of strength, respect and confidence, which means not only avoiding contentious body language, but also keeping proper posture and refraining from nervous behaviors.
Obviously, divorce court is an unpleasant and difficult experience for anyone. However, proper preparation will go a long way toward minimizing the complications you encounter, and these tips will help improve your chances of success when your day in court inevitably arrives.
For more information on how to succeed in divorce court, listen to the latest Cordell & Cordell Men's Divorce Podcast: Courtroom Tips.