The top 10 tips for appearing in Court

Most people have never stepped into a courtroom before and the idea of speaking and being questioned in front of a judge and others can be intimidating. To help reduce that anxiety, we’ve compiled some basic, no-nonsense tips to remember when you are called to the stand.

  1. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Always answer any question asked of you truthfully. A judge is always assessing a witness’s credibility. It is imperative that you be truthful, even if you think something you have to say may not be favorable to your case. It will be much worse for your case to be found to be lying.
  1. Only answer the question asked: Often times we want to explain ourselves and people want to try to elaborate or go into details about a situation. It is crucial to only answer the question that was posed to you from the other attorney. Your attorney will have the opportunity on redirect to ask you to clarify. Keep your answers short and completely on point.
  1. Look at the judge: In family law cases there is no jury. The person making the decisions when an agreement can’t be reached is the judge. It’s important to make a connection with that person and by looking at the judge when answering a question, you start to make that connection.
  1. Try to control your emotions:, You’ve worked hard to acquire your pension or how much time you see your children each week is one you are passionate about. When testifying in court it is important to try and control your emotions as much as possible so you appear rational and reasonable.
  1. Be positive: Bashing the other party won’t win you any favors with a judge. Let the judge make their own determination about the other side through the evidence and their demeanor. When parenting and custody issues are on the table, this is extremely critical to your case, as it is important for a judge to know that you will foster a positive relationship between the children and the other parent.
  1. Remember they have eyes behind their head: As children you’re told that parents have eyes behind their head and that they can see everything going on. In Court, the parent is the judge. He or she is watching not only the witness on the stand but also the other party who is sitting at counsel table. Control your nonverbal cues, such as eye rolls, frantically writing notes to counsel, or incessant whispering. The judge is taking it all in.
  1. Owning the good and the bad: In many cases once a hearing or trial has started the gloves comes off. Each side looks for evidence to hurt the other side’s position. It is important to own up to the past and decisions you have made. If there is a history of substance abuse, rather than hoping the other side won’t address it (trust me they will) discuss it when your attorney questions you. Be honest and forthcoming with your answers and information. Confronting the negatives head on allows you to take the surprise out of it when the other side brings it up.
  1. Pause before you speak: In this fast paced society we’re often quick to answer a question, usually before it’s done being asked. When you’re on the witness stand, stop, let the attorney questioning you finish their question and then pause for at least one full second before answering. Take your time and think about your answer before you just blurt out the first thing you think of.
  1. Stick to the plan: During trials and hearings there’s often a case theory or strategy that your attorney will focus on. Think of it like a catch phrase. When answering questions, keep that in mind and try to focus on how your answers are helping prove and work towards that theory. This will help you avoid any unnecessary extra testimony that may cloud the kudge’s view of the situation. Keep things on point.
  1. Be Reasonable: When testifying at court, show the judge that you are open to other ideas and not so stuck in your own position that you can’t work together. Testify about your proposed ideas and how you came to those proposals. Showing insight and thoughtfulness into your position will show that you interested in solutions to solve a problem.
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