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How to Prepare for a Court Appearance: Ten Practical Tips

Jul 11, 2018 | Written by: Diana N. Fredericks, Esq. |

  1. Do not bring friends/family to the courtroom. You do not need to have a fan section, which can be distracting to you and others.  Discuss the specifics with your lawyer before you go to court and balance a need for support with the recommendations of your counsel.
  1. Do not bring your children to court, ever. This applies to small children and adult children.  It is not appropriate and typically frowned upon by lawyers and judges.  Make arrangements for childcare in advance or discuss with your attorney any plans to bring a child.
  1. Do not use your cell phone in the courtroom. Make sure it is turned off, not just on silent mode, when you are in the courtroom.  In some counties, if a judge sees you using your phone or it goes off in the courtroom, even accidentally, the judge may have the sheriff confiscate it for the balance of the day, only to be returned at the close of the courts.
  1. Do not chew gum or wear a hat or sunglasses. Also, do not place your hands in your pockets.  These actions can be interpreted by the court as signs of disrespect.
  1. Remember that the halls have eyes and ears. Most court buildings are equipped with sound recording and cameras, meaning that even in the parking lots, elevators and hallways, someone may be watching/listening.  Be careful, kind and respectful.
  1. Dress conservatively, appropriately and professionally, but do not overdo it. Be careful with jewelry, makeup, and expensive labels (handbags, clothing, shoes).  Although it may seem trivial, speak with your attorney about this before you go to court to ensure you are dressed in the best way to support your positions. 
  1. Do not be late! Plan to meet your attorney earlier than the scheduled proceedings.  Make sure in advance that you have money for parking, gas, and any other needs that may arise.  On the day of your matter, clear your calendar for the day and make yourself available. 
  1. Do not speak to the judge unless/until spoken to. Do NOT interrupt and know your boundaries, especially if you have an attorney.  Consider that your mannerisms and conduct while sitting before the judge, even when silent, speak volumes.  The judge will be watching and observing.  Do not roll your eyes, shake your head, make faces, sigh, or do anything that will give the judge reason to question your credibility or motives.  Your behavior could have a serious impact on the outcome of your case.  Do not undermine your case or your attorney’s arguments with poor conduct.
  1. Visit the courthouse in advance and observe the judge in other matters. Most proceedings are open, meaning the public can attend/observe from the gallery.  Doing so will not only familiarize you with parking, timing, and security, but also how the judge conducts business in his/her courtroom.
  1. Respect the court staff and treat them well. Legal issues are often emotional and expensive, but the court staff is not there to be yelled at, called names, or disrespected.  If you do so, they will likely tell the judge.  It is also likely that you will have to deal with the same staff on more than one occasion.  


Diana Fredericks, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and devotes her practice solely to family law matters.  She is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney and was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, and to the New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2015.  Contact Ms. Fredericks for a consultation at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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