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Divorce Truths - The Judge

The most important person in your trial is the judge- first, last and always. Never underestimate the power or personality of the judge. This is the individual who can award you custody of your children, or award custody to your spouse. They will dispose of your assets. They determine what happens to your debts and who gets your house. They have the power to send parties to jail if they fail to comply with a court order. This kind of authority demands respect at all times. Never lose sight of this fact every time you are in their presence.

Be Respectful

It goes without saying that you should respect the judge. If the judge asks you any questions, you should address the judge as "Your Honor". Unless you are in the witness stand, it is customary to stand when addressing the judge.

Don't Interrupt

You should not talk when the judge is talking.

Direct Your Answers to the Judge

You should direct your answers to the judge even though it is your attorney or your spouse's attorney asking the questions. The judge is the individual who needs to hear the answer.

Be Courteous

Show courtesy to the judge at all times. Otherwise, it may be interpreted as showing disrespect for the court.

Don't Argue

You should never argue with the judge!

Don't Make Comments or Sounds While Your Spouse is Testifying

This may elicit a strong reprimand from the judge.

Personal Appearance

A trial is not the time or the place to exhibit extreme individuality. Speech and dress codes are strictly in effect. Good or bad, everyone makes assumptions about people based on how they dress and how they look. Judges are no different. You should be clean and your clothes should be - as your mother would say, your Sunday best. Dress conservative. Proper attire shows respect for the power of the court. Ask your attorney what is appropriate.

You Want the Judge to Like You

Simply put, you want the judge to like you. You want him to believe you. You want him to believe you are the person he can feel comfortable making a decision for. The judge is there to make a decision. They want to make the right decision.

What is My Judge Like? Go Find Out for Yourself!

The best advice I give clients facing a trial is to sit in on someone else's divorce trial that is conducted by the judge that will hear their case. Your attorney can tell you where and when these hearings are being held. This helps you in many ways.

First, it dispels the fear of the courtroom and helps with the logistics of the courtroom. You find out where the courthouse is, where you will park, what floor the courtroom is on, where the bathrooms are, the snack room, and how the courtroom itself looks. How long it will take you to get there and get parked and get to the courtroom. You are able to observe the dynamics of the courtroom without having the apprehension of being in a trial. It makes your appearance less intimidating once you learn the mechanics of how it looks, where you sit, where your attorney sits. Knowledge of this kind will put you more at ease when your trial begins.

Once you feel at ease being in the Courtroom, you can concentrate on what is actually going on. Critically critique the judge who will determine the outcome of your case. You can observe the innuendoes of the judge. How long did they let a witness speak? What type of questions (if any) did they ask the witnesses? Did they make their decision quickly? If the witness was emotional, how did the judge respond? What was it about the judge that you liked or disliked? Did they really slam one of the parties for their behavior during the divorce?

Attend as Many Hearing as Time Permits

It is important for you to experience this first hand. You will be more relaxed and less traumatized once you get to court. You will be a better witness. If time permits, try to attend several hearings until you have gained some insight as to the nature of the judge.

Did You Understand the Facts of the Case?

Remember that judges have hundreds of cases in which they have to listen to countless details. Too much detail can cause confusion and distort their focus away from the important issues. Listen to the facts in the cases that are being presented. Was it difficult to figure out what was being asked of the judge? Could you follow the testimony, or was it just numerous questions that didn't appear to be connected? How would you have presented the matter differently?

What Did You Observe About the Party Testifying?

Did the personality of the party on the stand make their testimony better or worse? Did you like them? If not, what did they do to cause you to dislike them in such a short period of time? Did you believe them?

You will soon recognize that you are forming opinions in just a few minutes or hours, based on your interpretations as the case unfolds before you, just like your judge will.

One of the many jobs of any attorney is to take complex issues and organize them into a clear, concise presentation. The attorney will constantly observe the judge during the trial. When the judge has heard enough on a certain issue, the attorney will end the testimony.

What did you learn? Was it beneficial to you? How do you think you might change your presentation to make it specific to this judge?

Additional Benefit

You will also observe the cross-examination techniques of both attorneys conducting the trial you are attending. This will give you more knowledge of what to expect when you are on the stand. Most divorce trials contain the same basis issues with different facts. Cross-examination is a difficult concept to understand until you experience it. Was one attorney more effective than the other? In what way? Try to look beyond the obvious. Use all your senses. The judge will.


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