Every state has its own divorce laws, but one thing stays consistent no matter where you get divorced.
Your case and the outcome of your divorce is governed by one person and one person alone... the judge.
As a divorce attorney, I have experienced the power that judges hold in a divorce case, and have seen the good, bad and the ugly when it comes to how a judge's opinion of the parties creates the tenor of the proceedings and affects important issues, such as custody and alimony.
There is no divorce by jury, or a pool of your peers.
Just the judge.
Although most family courts have mandates that attempt to resolve a divorce from beginning to end within one year, the fact is that many divorces exceed this time frame.
Depending on how contentious your divorce is, you may get to appear before your judge a few times, or more times than you care to count.
Judges wear a trendy black robe and sit higher than everyone else, but in the end they are just a person, like you and me.
That means, like you and me, they have opinions, biases and personal drama that they deal with on a regular basis.
Yes, they are supposed to be neutral and abide the law when making decisions about your life, but judges are not machines. Maybe they should be...
If your judge forms a negative opinion about you early in your divorce, you could be in for a long, stressful and dissatisfied ride.
That being said, here are five things your divorce judge wants to tell you, but doesn't:
1. Don't be disrespectful to your spouse, me or my staff. A courtroom is a formal place. When you're in court, you need to be mindful of that at all times. Even when you don't think the judge is paying attention to you, he/she is. If the judge feels you are being disrespectful to anyone, you will feel the negative impact from that. Whatever you do, don't interrupt the judge when he/she is speaking.
2. How you dress determines what I think about you. Again, court is a formal venue. You wouldn't wear a bathing suit to a job interview... right? In a divorce proceeding, maybe the most important piece of evidence you have is... you. By that I mean your credibility. Without it, you're toast. Credibility is your biggest asset and tool to get favorable results. If the judge likes you, generally believes what you say and feels like you are being reasonable, then you are in a good spot.
3. Don't tell me what to think. Judges are people too and people don't like to be told what to do or what to think. It's just how we're hardwired. Judges are highly educated individuals and they all feel they are equipped to read between the lines and see the "truth." If you're not an attorney, and even sometimes when you are, they don't want you to tell them how they should feel about a particular issue.
4. Don't insult my intelligence. If you are representing yourself in your divorce, you may be an accomplished, intelligent person. You may not be. Either way, your judge forms an opinion of you right away and early on in the process. If you do or say something to rub the judge the wrong way, or make him/her feel like you think they don't know what they're doing, you will have an uphill battle ahead of you.
5. Don't suggest outlandish solutions to the issues. Many contested divorces involve sensitive issues and high emotions on both sides. If children are involved, that takes it up another level. Judges want the parties to negotiate and settle the issues between themselves. Judges don't want to decide how you live your life for you. But, you have to be reasonable. If one party files a motion for relief, whether for financial support or primary custody, if the judge feels that you are being unreasonable, you will not get the results you want. If the judge sees you are attempting to be reasonable when your spouse is not, then that will go a long way if the judge ends up having to decide.
Jason Levoy, a.k.a The Divorce Resource Guy, is an attorney who coaches people without a lawyer how to get through the divorce process like a professional. Check out his free divorce guide on the negotiation tactics used by top divorce attorneys to settle divorces.