Whether it’s the first or the last, you are being evaluated at every court appearance during your Illinois divorce. The judge presiding over your case and the lawyers involved are assessing your character and credibility, analyzing you to figure out if you are emotional and easily frazzled or cool, calm, and collected.
Although many couples experiencing the divorce process become stressed out or emotionally overwhelmed during the trial, this type of behavior is considered inappropriate by the judge and can be undermined by the opposition. Whenever there is a decision to be made in favor of you or against your spouse, remember that even minor details can make a substantial difference in the final outcome.
The following are some important courtroom behavior tips:
- Arrive early - In a single day, there are many courtroom hearings scheduled. So, when you arrive late, it may automatically result in delays in your hearing, or even have your hearing scheduled for another date. Additionally, the inconvenience created by your tardiness will not make a good impression of you in the eyes of the judge. So make an effort to arrive early. Not on time, but early--which allows you some time to endure unexpected delays such as traffic and to mentally prepare yourself for the trial.
- Dress appropriately - Since first impressions matter inside or outside the courtroom, so does how you dress. You want to wear something which conveys professionalism and respect. Men should wear a business suit or at least slacks, a dress shirt, tie, and a sports coat. Women should wear a business suit, pants suit, or a dress that isn’t revealing or too low-cut. Both men and women should avoid wearing bright colors, hats, sandals, shorts, or t-shirts in the courtroom.
- Be polite to the court staff - The court officers and clerks are in charge of making sure the courts run efficiently. In many courtrooms in Illinois, the court officers inform the judge which cases are ready to be heard. Get on the bad side of officers, then your case may be called last.
- Obey court rules - Standing when the judge enters the courtroom, sitting upright during the proceedings, and paying attention to every word that is being said are all considered proper courtroom etiquette. Avoid spacing out, twiddling your thumbs, twirling your hair, fixing your makeup, or dozing off while the trial is in session. Furthermore, turn off your cell phone before entering the courtroom since its ringing, or even vibrating, can create a disturbance.
- Remain calm - Avoid making faces or gestures, or showing any signs of anger or disdain for the other side. Remember that the opposition will make inflammatory statements in order to intentionally incite a negative reaction from you. Hold back your emotions, keep a poker face, concentrate on the legal proceedings, and don’t fall for this ploy. You will have a chance to make your case or rebut your spouse’s arguments.
- Answer properly and be confident - When speaking, always maintain eye contact and speak with a loud, clear voice. If you look away from the judge or avert making eye contact with your spouse, you may come across as unreliable or dishonest. Take your time answering questions and speak with conviction. Don’t make the mistake of lying in order to create a positive impression of yourself.
- Show respect to the judge - The judge is in charge of making the final decision on your divorce settlement. You want to show that you respect him or her and his or her courtroom. Always address the judge as “your honor” and try to be courteous throughout the entire process. If you disagree with the judge, preface your comments with, “With all due respect, your honor.” When on the witness stand, always address the lawyers with, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.” Your respect for the judge, the attorneys, and other individuals present at the hearing also indicates your trust in the state’s law system.
- Be organized - In a divorce case, you are required to submit various documents and important papers. In order to be prepared for trial, you must have a thorough understanding of your case. So before going to trial, meet your attorney to discuss the various aspects of your case and familiarize yourself with the issues that will be addressed and how your lawyer is going to deal with them. Keep all important documents related to your divorce in a file and bring it to court.
Know when to keep your mouth shut - You are only allowed to speak when instructed to do so. Never interrupt the judge or talk out of turn. Do not argue with anyone, especially the judge. If the judge makes an unfavorable ruling, remain quiet.
The rules of courtroom etiquette appear to be common sense. In conclusion, actions speak louder than words.