Even with a family law attorney by your side, there are things a party could do or say that may negatively impact their family law case. Here are a few tips for putting your best foot forward when appearing in front of family law judges in Minnesota. Family law matters are emotionally charged so it’s important to adhere to the following tips so you don’t work against yourself in the courtroom.
- Be on time. Courts and Judges are very busy and often have back-to-back hearings. If you are late and the court has to wait for you, you are already off to the wrong start.
- Dress appropriately. No t- shirts, spaghetti strap tops, chewing gum, hats, or sweatpants. Court is serious and you should dress like you take it seriously. If you have doubts about what is appropriate, ask your attorney.
- Be on your best behavior. If the Court addresses you directly, answer clearly and refer to the judicial officer as “your honor” or “judge.” Do not interrupt the judge. Do not speak unless asked directly by the court or your attorney. Your attorney is working on a lot of things at once in the courtroom—making your argument, responding to questions from the judge, preparing objections, anticipating rebuttal arguments, taking notes, and making a clear record. If you have something you want to convey to your attorney during a trial or an oral argument, make a note of what you’d like to say and hand the note to your attorney without being distracting. Do not whisper to your attorney or poke or grab him or her while they are speaking. The attorney could miss something important while you are trying to get his or her attention. Plus, it’s distracting to the bench and could make you and your attorney look rattled or unprepared. Crying is ok, but do not speak out or exclaim anything unless you are asked a direct question. No profanity! If you are frustrated with your attorney, save it for after the hearing.
- Be courteous to court staff. They have a direct line to the judges. If you are rude or obnoxious to court staff, the judge will definitely hear about it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Court is a foreign experience for most family law litigants. If you have questions about the proceedings, what is being said, or procedure ask your attorney. At the end of some hearings, judges will ask parties if they have any questions. If you have a question—speak up! This is your life, your children, and your money and you should be well-informed about what is going on and what your options are.