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How to Talk to A Judge or Hearing Officer in Family Court

Most attorneys and judges will tell you that representing yourself in family court is a bad idea. But if you find yourself in that unfortunate position, here are a few tips for talking to the judge or hearing officer.

1. Speak with deference, manners, and humility. This will take you very, very far.

2. If you don’t know the judge’s courtroom procedure and rules, ask the bailiff where you should sit, and whether you are allowed to personally hand the judge your papers. You should also ask the bailiff if the judge has any other rules about courtroom behavior.

3. Arrive early for the best chance to speak to the bailiff (See #3).

4. DO NOT interrupt. DO NOT talk over the other person. Most of all, DO NOT interrupt or talk over the other person. Judges HATE that, court reporters must make everyone repeat themselves, and you may run out of hearing time.

5. If you plan on giving the judge documents, photos or other evidence, be sure to have copies for the other side. This is required. And before the hearing, learn how to properly submit your evidence to the court. For people without attorneys, this is often where their case falls apart.

6. The side that asked for the hearing gets to go first. Ask the judge to let you know when it is appropriate for you to speak at each point of the hearing or trial.

7. Do not assume the judge remembers you from a prior hearing or that she has read the entire court file. Judges have huge caseloads. It is wise to bring documents that you previously filed. Also, court clerks are notorious for losing documents. Don’t take out your frustration on the judge, they usually don’t handle their own paperwork.

8. Do not assume that the judge will be influenced by their own gender, race or religion. Most judges are consummate professionals. Even if they don’t like you, they will follow the rule of law.

9. After the hearing, ask the judge about next steps and any responsibilities you may have to provide or receive documents. If you are unhappy about the outcome of a hearing or trial, never mention plans to appeal. That just gives the other side a head start in planning their strategy against your appeal.

10. Dress in a suit. This advice is for both men and women. There is no value in dressing any other way. The judge expects you to respect the judicial system through your choice of attire.

For more information please visit www.dadvocacy.com or contact us at (305) 371-7640