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You are headed to court. What to really expect.

You have been unable to settle a family law issue with the mother of your child. Your attorney told you to be in court next week at 9:00 a.m. You have never been to court. It’s like Law and Order right? What should you expect?

  1. It’s not Judge Judy or Law and Order. What does that mean? It means that most judges do not appreciate the courtroom drama that you see on television. Loud voices, false claims, and talking over each other is likely to get you in trouble in a real courtroom. Your best bet is to stick to the facts, be respectful to everyone in the room, and keep it short.
  2. The docket will probably be long. On tv clients show up and there is only one case on the docket. Not so in the real world. You will show up and you should expect to have to wait often through a docket of several other cases. That may be embarrassing for you because you may know other litigants or not have been aware that your issues are being made very public by going to court.
  3. Expect to wait. Bring something with you to do. (Books, crossword puzzles, and magazines work well.) Lots of time is spent waiting on judges and attorneys and cell phones are generally not allowed in the courthouse.
  4. You will not get a decision that day. On tv judges seem to be very efficient. They often rule the same day and everyone leaves the courthouse knowing exactly what happens next. Not so in the real world. The best you can hope for is that the judge will “take it under advisement” and make a decision within a few weeks after court. Do not expect a decision on the day you go to court.
  5. Judges don’t want to decide your case. I know. On tv the judges are interested in their jobs and they are more than willing to decide every issue that comes before them. Not so in the real world. I have shown up many times only to have a judge tell me to “go out in the hallway and work it out” because the judge is not going to decide the issue. If you know this going in then you won’t have unreasonable expectations about someone you don’t know that doesn’t know you not wanting to decide custody of your children or child support.
  6. You may not get to talk to the judge at all. Most judges only want to hear from attorneys; not parties. You will only get to hear from the judge if you actually testify in court and the judge will likely do everything possible to avoid you being able to testify at all. Remember this and relay anything you want the judge to know through your attorney. Do not try to speak to the judge directly and do not send the judge a letter. Most judges consider this rude and will give you a condescending look for trying to address them while on the bench. Most of the time letters are returned to the send unopened because judges cannot have ex parte communication with you.

Now that I have made going to court sound as boring as any other job remember that every case is different and make sure to ask your attorney what else you should know and what you should expect when it comes to going to court.