What to Expect in Divorce Court
Massachusetts Divorce Attorneys Help You Prepare
Going to court can be an unnerving experience. Do yourself a favor: hire a divorce attorney who is more than confident enough to prepare you for every step of the process before you even step foot into the courtroom.
Even when you spend hours rehearsing, you can count on forgetting everything you planned for when you walk into a courtroom filled with strangers. To prevent this potential pitfall from occurring, make sure you know what to expect, including how to get to the courthouse, where to park and how to get through security.
Prepare yourself by visiting the court in advance of your hearing to see how people act and dress, as well as how the judge handles cases similar to yours.
What Happens on the Day You Go to Divorce Court?
There are several things that you will notice when you appear in court for the first time, whether it is for your Temporary Orders hearing or any other matter:
- Divorce and family law matters are open to the public except in extraordinary cases.
- Family law courtrooms are often filled with experts, attorneys, friends and families from other cases that have nothing to do with your situation.
- The judge’s bench is raised and in front of the courtroom.
- Microphones may be available for the use of the parties and their attorneys.
- Cases may be skipped or postponed if the parties or their attorneys miss roll call.
- Matters that have been resolved by agreement are usually called first (as an incentive); contentious cases tend to be called by the judge last.
- All parties take the oath to tell the truth.
How to Impress the Judge
Judges are human. Each has his or her own style. When you go to court, it is important to make a strong first impression with the judge overseeing your divorce case and make sure to keep your expectations realistic.
- Do not expect your case to be the only one in court that day. Typically, there are 10 to 15 matters before the judge each morning. If it’s scheduled as a motion day, judges and marital masters often hear more than 50 cases in a day.
Conduct yourself in court in a respectful and presentable way that makes
a good impression with the judge. Make your best effort to:
- Be on time;
- Have a clean and neat appearance;
- Show a confident attitude;
- Use eye contact;
- Do not interrupt or overreact.
- Stand when the judge enters or leaves the room, refer to the judge as “your honor,” and only speak to the judge when it is your turn or if you are asked a question.
- When your case is called, you will move to the front of the courtroom. (Don’t forget to bring a notebook with you to court. You're going to want to take notes.)
- Once the judge has heard all he or she needs to hear from you, the court will make a decision and order for the divorce.
Be Prepared When You Enter Divorce Court
Judges have little patience with those who aren’t prepared when they enter the courtroom. Some people don’t know what they want the court to do, why they are asking for it or why they are asking the judge to make rulings. The courts in Massachusetts are overburdened. Judges tend to have less patience because they are lacking the resources to manage their calendars and caseloads. Lack of preparation, especially for attorneys, is a cardinal sin. If a lawyer doesn’t seem to care about a client’s case, why should a judge?
Some Arguments Will Never Get You Anywhere
Arguments that your spouse—or the judge—is being unfair will not only not get you anywhere, but you also risk angering or annoying the judge. Also:
- Do not expect to get a chance to tell your entire story to the judge. In the family courts, there are strict rules of how evidence is presented, so you won’t be able to just tell your story the way you want to.
- The judge only hears issues that are scheduled before the court on that day. If there is another issue, it won’t likely be heard and the judge will deny your request.
You Have Questions. We Have Answers.
The first step for most people who are thinking about divorce or formulating their divorce strategy is to get answers to any questions they may have. We invite you to start finding answers by reading about the Massachusetts Divorce Courts. You can also begin by calling one of our Massachusetts divorce attorneys.
Call (508) 502-7002 or contact us online for a free consultation.