Ideally, you and your spouse will find a way to settle any disputed issues in your divorce without litigation. However, that is not always the case, and many people will find themselves having to stand trial for the first time in their lives. This can be an extremely intimidating experience for anyone.
The most important thing you can do to walk into that courtroom with confidence is prepare. It may sound simple enough, but divorce court will likely be a whole new world and there are many aspects you need to plan for so that you don’t look like a fish out of water. With proper preparation, you will be able to remain calm and collected, which will reduce your stress and add to your credibility.
They say that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a new skill, but you won’t have that long to prepare for trial. The more you practice, however, the more comfortable you will feel and the more relaxed you will come across. An effective way to prepare is for your attorney to do a mock-trial and have you take thorough notes.
This sort of practice gives you a chance to maximize the effectiveness of your answers to all of the questions your lawyer will ask. But arguably more beneficial is to have your attorney switch into the role of opposing counsel for practice of the dreaded cross-examination.
Cross-examination can be the most stressful aspect of the entire trial process, and is when people frequently crack and shoot themselves in the foot with detrimental testimony. However, an experienced attorney with a full understanding of the case can likely predict the line of questioning your opposition will use, so you will not be caught off-guard. After running through this with your attorney, take what you have learned and practice as often as you can.
Stay involved with your case
While it will cost you a little more in attorney fees, playing an active role in your case and getting all the information you can will help you in the long run. This is particularly important prior to your first hearing and is often well worth shelling out a little bit more so you can fully understand what is going to happen.
It is also good to review your deposition transcripts or any other relevant documentation, so you do not end up crossing yourself up once you reach the bench. The more you are a part of the process and the more familiarity you have with the game plan, the easier it will be to prepare and the less stress you will feel when you finally have to take the stand.
Get to know the trial environment
Courtrooms can be an intimidating place for those who have never seen the inside of one except for on cop dramas or “Judge Judy.” It would be a good idea to set some time aside to go and observe your judge in his domain prior to your trial — most judges hold public hearings. This will afford you the opportunity to see his or her temperament, show what to expect during cross-examination and give a general impression of how the courtroom process works in reality, as opposed to fiction. Take notes on the procedures or anything else that you do not understand, and your attorney can easily answer any of your questions.
Show up early and follow courtroom etiquette
The courtroom is a traditional institution and should be held to a certain level of respect, which a judge will notice and expect. Showing up late does not help you exude an aura of responsibility, and no matter what you have seen people wearing on “Divorce Court,” the conventional courtroom attire is a conservative suit.
Other common mistakes are chewing gum, wearing a hat, using your phone and general disregard of courtroom procedure. While it may seem silly to stand every time the judge enters or leaves the room or to always refer to them as “your honor,” that is the protocol and you need to play along.
Your attorney should be your go-to resource for information on preparing for your trial. They will know all of the particulars of your local courts, which will vary from each jurisdiction. However, the need for practice is the same no matter where you go, and more preparation will always give you a better chance of increasing your credibility with the judge and shutting down your opposing attorney.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”