What Not To Do in Family Court

While your family-court case will be decided by the judge by applying the law to the facts, how you look, act, and behave in court can affect the judge’s opinion of you and may influence the decision in your case. To make the best possible impression and have the very best chance at getting the outcome you are hoping for in your case, you should avoid doing anything on this list while in the courtroom:

  • Wearing a hat
  • Chewing gum
  • Talking or texting on your phone
  • Playing games or using apps on your phone
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Closing your eyes for more than a second or two
  • Glaring at your ex
  • Talking to your ex
  • Eating or drinking
  • Taking your shoes off
  • Allowing any part of any undergarment to show
  • Wearing dirty or torn clothing
  • Forgetting to comb or brush your hair before coming to court
  • Combing or arranging your hair while in court
  • Making jokes or laughing inappropriately
  • Interrupting the judge or the attorneys
  • Rolling your eyes or making other faces that indicate disrespect
  • Answering questions from the judge in a hostile or rude manner
  • Putting your feet up on any of the furniture
  • Sprawling in your chair
  • Bringing your child unless you have been specifically told that he or she should come
  • Bringing a large group of friends or relatives into the courtroom with you
  • Playing with anything in front of you, like a pen, cup, or pad of paper

Appearances do matter when you are in divorce court, so you want to project an image of yourself as serious, professional, successful, calm, smart, compassionate, mature, and reliable. Talk with your attorney about what you should wear to family court and how you should be prepared to answer questions asked of you by the judge or other attorneys.

Reasons to avoid court
It may be in your best interest to avoid family court altogether. People are often concerned about what happens in family court, as it can be an overwhelming and scary world. Just the idea of going to court can be draining—both emotionally and physically. As a result, in recent years there has been a trend toward trying to resolve divorce matters outside of court, which can be done in a number of ways, including through a mediation process or simply by permitting your attorneys to make proposals and having ongoing settlement discussions. Divorce affects not only you as an individual, but your entire family, including your children. For that reason, it may be to your benefit to speak to a family-law attorney about the ways that you might be able to avoid family court. Here are some reasons why you may want to avoid family court:

  • It’s very difficult to navigate the family-court system without an attorney
    It’s very common for people to come in for an initial consultation after they have already looked into filing a complaint for divorce on their own. It’s very difficult to navigate the family-court system without an attorney. There are many divorce-court rules that you need to be aware of, and the court staff is not permitted to give you legal advice. In many instances, that means that they will give you the paperwork that you need to complete whatever aspect of the divorce you are asking about, but will not assist further. This may result in your motions being denied for procedural issues that you were not aware of, such as not attaching a prior order that you are seeking to enforce. If that happens, you would need to re-file the motion, wasting precious time and money. An attorney who specializes in family law, such as the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge, are experts when it comes to the family-court system. They will be able to more effectively advocate on your behalf and in accordance with the court rules in order to get you the relief that you need.

  • It may increase your counsel fees
    Once you file a complaint for divorce, you are on the court’s schedule and must comply with various dates to remain on track. This may result in increased counsel fees in order to ensure that you are compliant. For example, in the event that you have been unable to settle your case, you will be required to attend intensive settlement conferences that essentially require a full-day court appearance. This can be very costly. An alternative to this would be to ask your attorney to arrange a four-way conference with your spouse and their attorney, or perhaps attend mediation prior to filing a complaint. It is very common for people to resolve their entire case prior to filing a complaint for divorce.  Doing so may allow you to avoid some of the mandatory divorce-court appearances that would otherwise be necessary, resulting in a savings in counsel fees.

  • You want to make your own decisions for your family
    Your divorce impacts not only your life, but the lives of all of the members of your family.  While you may be hurt or angry at your spouse, it’s important to keep the best interests of your children at the forefront of your mind. There is a family-law case that references that it is better for clients to make their own decisions about what’s best for their children rather than “the stranger in the black robe.” By reaching a settlement agreement that you and your spouse can both live with, it allows you to dictate your own lives rather than leaving aspects of your life in the hands of a judge who knows nothing about you or your family.

When family court is necessary
There are times, however, when family court will be necessary. The following instances are when you will need to file a complaint for divorce and begin litigation:

  • Cases that involve domestic violence
    If you are in a situation in which there are instances of domestic violence, you have no choice but to have the matter handled by the court. A restraining order cannot be put into place without a court determining that it is appropriate and necessary. Once you are in court and have obtained a temporary restraining order, there is an option to enter into a lesser agreement known as civil restraints. In that situation, there is an agreement that generally includes language that the parties will live separately and apart and will not harass one another. However, as the name states, this is only a civil order. If a party violates civil restraints, there is nothing that can be done other than to file a motion to have it enforced. Meanwhile, if a restraining order is violated, the person violating it will be arrested. Your safety and well-being are the most important factors, so if you are involved in a relationship in which domestic violence is an issue, it is in your best interest to involve the family court.

  • Cases where there is a significant financial gap
    There are often times when potential clients come to a consultation and tell the attorneys that they do not have any access to the marital money, and perhaps do not even have any information about their own personal finances because the other party has complete control. In these cases, it is necessary to file for divorce so that you are granted the ability to file a motion asking to be provided with marital money to pay your family-court lawyer and to “even the playing field.” A judge is likely to order that an asset be liquidated in order to provide a party with funds for litigation, and it may be that this is your only option to make that happen.

  • Cases where you have tried to settle outside of court but have stalled
    Sometimes parties begin negotiating a settlement either through family-court lawyers or a mediator. However, it’s not uncommon for parties to reach an issue that one or both are unwilling to budge on. When this happens, clients often have to make a decision about whether they believe it is worth the time and energy to continue attempting to resolve the matter out of divorce court, or if it’s time to file in order to present the issue to a judge for his or her opinion and input. Sometimes this is all that’s necessary in order to move one or both parties from their prior stance. Filing a complaint for divorce places the case on the court’s timeline and will ensure movement forward.

If you are considering putting an end to your marriage and want to keep the divorce proceedings out of family court, contact the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge to schedule a consultation to discuss whether this is the best option for your particular case.

Divorce Process Guide
About DeTorres and DeGeorge Family Law

DeTorres and DeGeorge Family Law is a New Jersey based family law firm that has been helping New Jersey residents achieve the best possible results in their divorce for nearly 30 years. The DeTorres and DeGeorge Family Law team is always ready to fight for their clients’ rights – determined to help New Jersey families overcome legal challenges from start to finish. Our legal team, with over 65 years of combined experience, provides expert guidance on all family law and divorce-related matters, including custody and parenting time, alimony and child support, equitable distribution of assets, premarital agreements, post-divorce issues, executive compensation distribution, divorces for business owners, and divorce mediation. The firm has been recognized for its dedication and expertise in the industry by multiple local and national organizations, including Super Lawyers, Law Firm 500, and the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. Rosanne DeTorres, Managing Partner, is one of 150 lawyers certified as a matrimonial law attorney.

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