What to Expect When Going to Court: At Court
For the average person, heading to court to deal with a family law issue, like a divorce and everything it entails, can be intimidating. The setting will be formal and judgmental, by virtue of what it is, so it is understandable to get anxious. However, if you have a court date coming up, you can take some of the stress of the situation away by learning what you can expect at court right now.
What Usually Happens At Family Court
First and foremost, if you have retained a helpful family law attorney, they should meet you at a predetermined destination outside of the courtroom and take over from there. It is highly recommended to retain a lawyer for this reason, even in divorce cases that seem straightforward.
If you did not retain a family lawyer, handling the situation is going to solely be up to you. You will have to start by following directions – on signs or from friendly staff members – to the right courtroom or department in the statehouse. Generally, there should be at least one sheriff deputy posted at the entrance who can tell you where to go.
When you arrive at the right door, you can double-check you made it to the right place by looking at a printed list posted there that shows cases and case times. For example, if your hearing is at 9:00 AM, there should be your case name listed under 9:00, possibly with a few others. When you find your case on the list, record the number that should be next to it. This is called a line number, which is used to check-in once you’re inside the courtroom; the judge may also call out your line number to signal you can stand or approach the bench, rather than calling out your name. Note: not all counties use the list number system, so do not be too alarmed if no list is there.
What’s Inside the Courtroom
When you head into the courtroom, you will find a seating area nearest the door. The rows of seats will be separated from the rest of the courtroom – desks, tables, and the judge’s area – by a short wall or gate. Do not cross the gate and leave the seating area until your case is called, or a courtroom official instructs you to go beyond it. Otherwise, you could inadvertently interrupt another case or wind up in trouble with the court.
In some courtrooms, you will need to check in with the sheriff’s deputy actually in the courtroom so they know you are there. After you get your line number, find a deputy – perhaps by the front door again – and tell them the number. There might also be a sign-in sheet where you can put your name and line number. If you’re not sure what to do, you should feel free to ask the deputy, who will probably be seated right next to the seating area.
During the Hearing
If you brought a family lawyer to represent you during the case, they should and most likely will handle most of the speaking in the hearing. If you want to say something, let your lawyer know. If you have a question, let your lawyer know. Basically, your attorney will be your liaison to the court, so use their abilities and assistance as much as you want.
When you do need to speak for yourself, or you did not retain a family lawyer, be sure to speak clearly, loudly, and slowly enough for the court reporter to be able to write down what you are saying. It’s easy to get nervous, speak more quickly than you realize, and make it hard for the court reporter to work. The judge and court reporter both know about the side effects of nerves and will let you know if they’re having trouble. Don’t take it personally and don’t get embarrassed if they tell you to slow down. It happens quite often when people represent themselves or have never been in court before.
Perhaps more importantly than speaking clearly is speaking when appropriate. Do not interrupt the judge, the opposing counsel, or even your own counsel. Any sort of interruption looks bad and will certainly displease the judge. In a family law case that could be open to the judge’s own discretion, being rude and losing favor can be one of the worst things you do.
If you don’t understand a question, order, legal term, or anything at all, tell the judge when you can speak again without interrupting. Asking for permission to speak is also recommended. The judge wants to ensure you know what is happening, or else the entire case and the court order could end up being invalid. It helps to take notes as the case goes on in case there will be another court date to address new concerns.
Lastly, when the case concludes and the court’s order is finalized, it is time to get a copy of the order. The court will create it if there are no attorneys present. If the opposing side has a lawyer and you don’t, you should get a copy of the order from their lawyer, and vice versa.
San Francisco Family Law Attorney Romanovska
In the end, being in court is not as frightful as it might seem, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities where formality and legal comprehension are key. To improve your chances in your case, and to make certain you fully understand the court’s orders, you can work with Romanovska Law and our San Francisco divorce attorney. With our experience, knowledge, and know-how, you can rest easy during your case, from start to finish.
Contact our firm today for more information about our services and your options.