When you go to court for a custody hearing, you want to make sure you make a good impression on the judge and everyone who is attending the hearing. You can do this by dressing appropriately, taking the time to prepare for your hearing, and showing respect.
To get ready for court, you should the following 3 things:
- talk to your lawyer or an adult you trust—ask what will happen in court,
- if the judge is going to ask you questions, practice answering them with your lawyer or another adult—this will make you feel less nervous,
- make sure your lawyer has your phone number so s/he can call you if your court date changes, and
- get to court early, plan for traffic, and make sure you know how to arrive at your specific court room!
You may have to
- get a babysitter for your child,
- arrange for transportation,
- tell your school or boss about your court date (the school must allow you to go and excuse your absence), and/or
- make back-up plans for a sitter and transportation in case the first plan does not work out.
Call your lawyer or the court the day before to make sure the time and date of the hearing have not changed. If you need to get in touch with the court directly for any reason, contact the court clerk. The court you call should be the Superior Court for the county you live in. You can locate the phone number in the blue pages of your local phone book or online.
Dress neatly and wear simple clothes that cover most of your body. This shows respect for the court and helps make a good impression.
Do not wear clothes that attract a lot of attention. Also avoid
- flip-flops or slippers
- t-shirts with pictures or slogans
- lots of jewelry or make-up
- gang-related clothing
Show respect to everyone in the courtroom.
That means turn your cell phone off and keep it out of sight, sit or stand up straight, look at the person talking to you, and when you speak to the judge, say “sir” or “ma’am” or “your honor.”
- chew gum,
- whisper or talk when it is not your turn, and
- use bad language, or try to be funny or sarcastic.
If you get upset, ask for a break to cool down.
If there is an adult you trust who would make you feel more comfortable, ask your lawyer if it would be OK to bring someone to court.
It may not be a good idea to take a friend because your friend may talk to other people about what happens at court or they may not know how to behave in court.
If you want a friend to take you to the courthouse, you can ask him or her to wait in the hallway until your case is finished.
In most cases, you should not bring your children to court.