If you have to go to court in your divorce case, you’re probably pretty nervous. Most people haven’t been to court ever before, unless they had some sort of minor traffic infraction, and being in front of a judge is intimidating. You know that he’s going to hear some of the most intimate details of your life, and he is going to make some sort of judgment based on what he hears. It’s enough to make anybody suffer a sleepless night or two.
In most cases, your attorney will be able to reach a settlement before your hearing. A lot of times, especially with pendente lite hearings, the attorneys reach a settlement outside the courtroom. You could get all dressed up, go to court, settle your case to your satisfaction, and all your worrying would be for nothing. It’s a pretty likely scenario, because judges really do prefer when people are able to settle their disputes between themselves. It makes sense, after all, because you’re more likely to be satisfied and reach a fair conclusion if the two of you are responsible for reaching an agreement yourselves.
In the rare case that you actually make it in front of the judge, you’ll need to be prepared to testify. It’s intimidating, but if you follow these tips, you’ll help make sure that you come off well in front of the judge.
- Be calm.
Take a deep breath. Your attorney and your husband’s attorney will have an opportunity to ask you questions, but don’t let it work you up. You’re not on trial here; the judge is just trying to ascertain the facts. When your attorney asks you a question, answer it. When your husband’s attorney asks you a question, make sure you understand it, pause and give your attorney an opportunity to make an objection, and then answer it.
Crying won’t help, and neither will launching into a passive aggressive discussion about all the ways your husband has failed you and the family. Remember: divorce isn’t so much about fault. To the judge, divorce is a business transaction.
- Don’t overshare.
Answer the question, and nothing but the question. Don’t add extra information. If you can get away with a “yes,” or a “no,” that’s ideal. Don’t give the other attorney extra ammunition.
- Don’t get defensive.
You’re going to hear things that you don’t like. React calmly, coolly, and professionally. Remember that the judge is watching you and making decisions all the time.
- Don’t make faces when he’s testifying.
You also need to remember that you are making an impression on the judge even when you aren’t on the witness stand. If you’re sucking your teeth, rolling your eyes, making exasperated hand gestures, or scribbling furiously on your attorney’s notepad during your husband’s testimony, you’re going to like a little unglued.
I understand that it can be difficult to go into court and act like you’re fine when you’re going through a traumatic life transition. You’ve got a lot of competing emotions, and you’re afraid for the future. Your husband hasn’t always behaved honorably towards you, and you’re angry, hurt, scared, and frustrated. You still have to remember that the judge doesn’t feel any of those things, and will probably not understand if you’re hysterical in the middle of his courtroom. Remember that you’re always making an impression, and that the pressure is on you to make sure it’s a good one.