When you walk into a Virginia courtroom to litigate issues regarding marriage dissolution, you might feel your palms sweating or heart beating faster, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever gone to court. Divorce is stressful for many reasons; it’s common for people’s stress levels to rise just by being in a courtroom environment. If you’re litigating child custody, alimony, property division or other issues, you want to achieve a favorable outcome.
No matter how well-prepared you are with documents or evidence, if you don’t understand proper courtroom etiquette, you may say or do something that has a negative impact on the judge who is overseeing your case. That, of course, is the last thing you want to do. The better understanding you have of the etiquette the court expects of you, the greater the chance that you’ll make a good impression.
Courtroom etiquette demands respectfulness at all times
Your ex may really know how to get your temper to flare. If your relationship is contentious and you believe he or she will do anything to try to gain the upper-hand during proceedings, you’ll have your work cut out to try to remain calm and respectful at all times. The court understands that divorce issues are intensely personal and may evoke strong emotions. However, the judge who is hearing your case expects you to use non-threatening and respectful verbal and body language at all times.
No matter what your ex says or does, if you want to make a good impression on the judge, you must avoid erupting in anger, using profanity in word or gesture, and any other speech or behavior that the court would consider inappropriate. You’ll also want to avoid interrupting the judge when he or she is speaking, and should use proper terms of address when you speak to him or her.
Your clothing and general appearance matters
When your goal is to convince a family court judge to rule in your favor, you’ll want to use proper etiquette regarding what you wear to court. In a child custody case, for instance, you’ll want to appear confident and capable of providing for the needs of your children. If you show up looking sloppy, disheveled or like you are not taking proceedings seriously, it’s likely to have a negative effect on your case.
It’s always best to wear clothing that would be appropriate at an important business meeting. Neutral or dark colors are good choices, as are closed-toed shoes with low or flat heels and minimal accessories. Try to imagine yourself as the judge and what might make a good impression on you if a parent were suing for sole custody or litigating another divorce issue.
Researching ahead of time can help you avoid problems
Perhaps you’ve never been inside a courtroom and are hoping to achieve a swift and fair settlement. The more you know ahead of time about how divorce proceedings work and what proper courtroom etiquette is, the better. This is why many people meet with experienced family law attorneys before litigation begins, so that they can seek recommendations as to a best course of action in a particular set of circumstances from someone who is well-versed in family law issues.