Whether you and your spouse are working towards an amicable divorce or you have been fighting about the details of your settlement for months, when your settlement is complete, you will both have to appear in your local court. There is no way to obtain a divorce decree without appearing before a judge.
Going to court can be a scary, intimidating experience. Knowing what will happen can help ease your anxiety. While the little details may be different in various areas of the country, most court appearances follow the same procedure.
As soon as you get the date of your hearing, make arrangements to have the time off of work. If possible, plan to take the whole day, to allow for extra time in case your appointment is delayed or there are issues to work out in court. Also, few people come out of court with their divorce final without some sort of emotional reaction. You may be crying or you may be ready to celebrate – either way, going back to work will be difficult.
Court is a very respectful atmosphere. This is not the place to wear pajama pants, workout clothes or jeans. You need to dress appropriately in professional looking clothes. You can get a nice outfit for $30-40 at department stores. If money is too tight to purchase new clothes, try to borrow clothes from family or friends or check out your local thrift shop. Often, brand new clothes can be found there for just a few dollars.
Make sure to arrive a few minutes early to court. You will be seated at a table with your attorney, if you have one, and your spouse will be seated nearby with his/her attorney. The judge will not be in the room when you arrive. When it is time for court, the bailiff will say “All rise” and everyone will stand as the judge enters. Be silent and respectful as the judge walks in and stand still until he/she says you may be seated.
The person who filed for divorce (petitioner) will present his/her case first and the other side will have a chance to respond. Witnesses may be called and the judge will hear all of the evidence from both sides. It should be noted that if you and your spouse have already designed a settlement agreement, all you may have to do is testify that you agree with what you have presented to the court. This is definitely the easier way to go.
Remember, when you are in court, you need to show respect to everyone in the room, including your spouse. Even if you cannot stand hearing their voice, you must remain respectful. The judge will be watching everyone. Always turn your cell phones off – or better yet, leave them in your car. It is not enough to put them on vibrate. Shut them off completely.
Many people want to bring friends and family to their hearing. Think about whether you really want people to hear all of the private details of your life. It may be better for your support circle to wait outside of the courtroom. It is never in good taste to bring a new boy/girl friend. If your spouse does bring one, you need to keep your emotions in check. Always be respectful!
Working your way through a divorce is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. If you have agreed on a settlement, going to court will be the easy part. Keep your emotions under control, show respect to everyone and get ready to start your new life.
If you are currently involved in a divorce and require legal guidance, before you spend thousands of dollars in legal fees, check out our free 7-Day “Divorce 101” course. Sign up below and you’ll immediately start receiving tips and guidance you can use to minimize the pain and time required to get through the divorce process.