Courtroom Behavior: How to Avoid Acting a Fool in Front of the Judge
If you’re getting ready to go to court, you’re probably a basket full of nerves. Whether you’re going to court in the juvenile and domestic relations court for custody, visitation, or support, or whether you’re appearing in the circuit court for any number of hearings, motions, or even a trial, there are a couple rules you should remember and that will always serve you well.
1. Dress like you’re going to church.
I’m always amazed at the number of people I see in court who are wearing outfits that are totally inappropriate. People in juvenile and domestic relations court seem to have particular trouble with selecting court-appropriate attire. Pajamas, thigh high patent leather boots, exposed push up bras, shorts, spaghetti straps, midriff-bearing tops (I sound like my high school principal), etc., etc. are automatically inappropriate. I shouldn’t have to say it, but the reason I list these specific things is because I have seen it.
Always wear clothes that you would associate with going to church or another dressy occasion. A dress or skirt with a cardigan or blouse is usually a safe bet.
2. Make the judge like you.
At all times, you should behave in a polite and respectful manner towards everyone around you. Your husband’s attorney is not your mortal enemy, and it is not appropriate to constantly give him the stink eye. Remember–he is just the attorney whose office your husband happened to walk into. Attorneys have to make a living, and someone had to represent your husband. Your behavior goes a long way towards convincing the judge that your version of the story is true. Make sure to present yourself as a good, reasonable, and credible person.
3. Make the bailiff, the clerk, and opposing counsel like you.
You know how they say you can tell what kind of a person you are based on how you treat waitresses and other people who in the position to serve you? Obviously, the bailiff and the clerk are a little different, but you’re very silly if you don’t think they’ll talk about you to the judge later on. Always treat these people with the utmost respect and courtesy. If you don’t, the judge will hear about it. “Yes, sir,” “no, sir,” and “thank you,” will go a long way.
4. Don’t suck your teeth, roll your eyes, or flip the bird to your husband at any time.
It’s immature, and it won’t make you come across like a mature and respectful person. Give your husband and his attorney a chance to present their side; you’ll get your turn, too. Nothing can lose a case quite as quickly as a client who can’t behave in the courtroom.
5. Try not to cry.
I know, I know. Sometimes it’s hard, and you’re an emotional wreck. Still, it doesn’t put you in the best light if you’re so touchy that any little thing will set you off. Try to stay calm, cool, and collected. Show your maturity. It’s hard for a judge to think of you as mature and reasonable (or a capable parent) if you can’t hear a few criticisms in court. Maybe it’s unfair, but you should try your hardest to give the judge no reason to question your maturity, credibility, or reasonableness.
6. Don’t pass too many notes to your attorney.
This goes along the same lines as avoiding the teeth sucking. As soon as your husband’s attorney starts talking, you should not start scribbling “HE IS A DIRTY ROTTEN LIAR” on your little yellow legal pad. Chances are, the judge knows full well what you’re writing (he’s not an idiot), and it won’t make you come across any more reasonably than if you rolled your eyes or shouted “NAH-UNH!” Give your husband his chance to present his side; your turn will soon come. Only pass important notes to your attorney, and stay calm while you’re writing them.