The law may be on your side. The facts may be on your side. You may have the best divorce attorney in the state of New York handling your case. But all of those positive factors can be undermined if you act foolishly in court.
Divorce brings out deep emotions, many of which are negative and impulsive. The courtroom, the witness stand and the judge’s bench create an unfamiliar and perhaps unsettling environment. Combine the two, and the potential exists to engage in behavior which could anger the judge, paint you in a bad light, and negatively impact the chances of achieving the outcome you want.
If you have court appearance in your future, your divorce attorney should take the time to prepare you for your appearance, explain what to expect from the judge, and advise you as to what the judge expects from you.
What Not to Do in your New York Divorce
But if you need additional guidance or a reminder of how not to act in divorce court, here are four big no-no’s:
- Not showing up/arriving late. Woody Allen once said that “80% of success is just showing up.” Conversely, failing to show up in court when you are expected to be there or arriving late will be seen as a sign of disrespect by the judge that will not do you any favors. Make sure you are there when your lawyer says to be there, ideally at least 15 minutes early. Being early gives the added benefits of allowing time for your lawyer to update you and allowing you to get “the lay of the land.”.
- Failing to keep your emotions in check. The issues decided by the judge will be based on facts and law, not emotion. When and if you testify or otherwise speak, you should keep things factual and business-like as well. When others are speaking, whether it be the judge, the attorneys, your spouse, or other witnesses they may say things you believe to be false or otherwise anger you. Don’t react outwardly. No shouting, insults, eye-rolling, heavy sighing, and the like. When the judge talks to you, listen and really hear what is being said.
- Dressing like a slob. Or dressing like a billionaire. Dress for court as you would for an important meeting or job interview. Again, the judge expects respect in the courtroom, and shorts and flip-flops won’t qualify. Similarly, make sure you are well-groomed. While what you wear to court should be respectful appropriate, you should not undermine any claims that you are destitute or in need of financial support by dressing like you’re going to the Oscars or accessorizing yourself with excessive bling.
- Acting like a jerk. Tardiness, unrestrained emotions, and poor fashion choices aside, basic common-sense courtesy can help keep you on the judge’s good side. One of those basic acts is to turn off your phone before entering the courtroom and keep it off and out of your hands during proceedings. Don’t interrupt others while they are speaking, especially the judge. Show interest in the proceedings, be engaged, make eye contact, and speak politely and clearly when it’s time for your input.
Will you get the outcome you want in your divorce case solely because you act and look like you should in a courtroom? Probably not. But disrespect, discourtesy, and disinterest can definitely have a negative impact on those prospects.
Daniel Clement: Trusted New York and New Jersey Divorce Counsel
New York and New Jersey divorce attorney Daniel Clement has been guiding clients through divorce and family disputes for over 30 years.
He understands your concerns and fears. He wants to help you to overcome the uncertainty and to empower you to make informed decisions that achieve your desired goals.
If you are considering divorce, please download the free e-book The Divorce Process: What to Expect to learn more about the process.
We also welcome you to contact us or call (212) 683-9551 to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.