In an ideal scenario, most separating couples or spouses will resolve the financial and children issues amicably between themselves or with the help of a family solicitor. However there are times when Court proceedings are necessary for a number of reasons.
Whether you choose to represent yourself or you have instructed a solicitor or barrister, the Solicitors and Legal Expert teams at Maguire offer the following tips to beat represent your interests in court.
Ideally instruct a solicitor or barrister to represent you
You won’t be able to find a YouTube video telling you what to say at Court or what will happen at the hearing as every case and experience is different.
Whilst you have to pay for a family lawyer or barrister to represent you, the money will be well spent as they live and breathe family law issues every day. They know what particular Judges like and don’t like, they know the legal arguments to use in particular situations and they will always know what needs to go in a Court Order to protect your best interests.
You often only get one chance to present your case in front of a Judge and with it likely being one of the most important decisions to be made in your life, you have a better chance of succeeding if you have the support of a good legal team behind you.
Be organised and stick to the dates
When proceedings are issued you will get a date for when and where the hearing will be and you may get given dates when certain documents have to be prepared and filed by at Court and sent to your opponent. Put these in your diary or phone calendar, whichever you prefer to use.
Nothing rattles a Judge more than if you fail to turn up to a hearing or you don’t file a document on time (or at all!) and you are then at risk of having to pay your opponent’s legal costs if you do for a wasted hearing where no progress can be made.
Know your case as well as possible
Make sure you know the facts and figures of your case inside out and back to front. As the Scouts would say always “be prepared”.
Again nothing winds a Judge up more than when they ask you a simple question about your case and you don’t know the answer or you don’t have the information with you. For example, if your case is to prove that you can no longer afford to pay spousal maintenance to your ex because your job has changed and you are earning less than when the original order was made, you need to make sure you have proof of your earnings and proof of your outgoings.
First impressions are important
It is always a good idea to make a good and lasting impression when you appear before a Judge as you want them to form the opinion you are credible.
Smart dress is advised however for those who are trying to persuade the Judge that you cannot afford to live on the level of maintenance your ex-spouse is proposing to pay, it would be a good idea not to turn up to Court highly decorated in lavish jewellery and wearing expensive branded clothing.
That’s not to say you should turn up wearing a bin bag either! Just use your common sense and dress appropriately.
Always turn off your mobile phone
Again this is another tip to avoid invoking any unnecessary rage from the Judge.
All mobile phones should be switched off or put on silent and silent means silent. The sound of a vibrating phone is just as off-putting as the sound of the latest chart topping ring tone.
Arrive early and allow time for unplanned personal delays
It’s always a good idea to plan your journey to Court in advance and take in to account traffic and car parking, and if you actually need help with traffic laws, you can help professional help for this.
If you hold up the hearing then it will only annoy the Judge and cause delay.
Always remember to book in with the usher when you first arrive
When you arrive at Court the first thing you need to do is check in with the usher to say you have arrived.
If you go to try and negotiate straight away with your opponent or have a conference with your legal adviser then the usher and Judge won’t know you are here and this could cause issues.
Be polite & courteous to the court staff (including the Judge)
Remember that people talk and just because the usher is not in the Court room with you, if you are rude and discourteous outside of the Court room to the usher or any other staff, then it is likely they will mention something to the Judge about your behaviour without you knowing, which is going to put you on the back foot with the Judge.
Facial expressions and interruptions
You will have to accept that at some stage during the time you are before a Judge, your opponent is going to say something that will antagonise you. They won’t mean to but they are fighting for their client’s case. Just as your solicitor or barrister will do the same for you.
If you hear something that is not true or it upsets/angers you then just try to keep your facial expressions neutral rather than pulling a face in the direction of your opponent and under no circumstances do you shout out and interrupt the proceedings.
You or your legal representative will have a chance to respond so it’s a matter of being patient and waiting your turn. Make a note of the point that was made which you want to rectify (show it to your representative if relevant) and you can come to it when it is your turn to speak (or your representatives).
Do not film or record any part of the proceedings
You could be held in contempt of court and sanctioned if you film or record the Court proceedings as these are private law proceedings.
The Judge will record the hearing and so if there is ever a discrepancy later on about what was said, you can request that the recordings are transcribed at a cost, to you.
This is another reason why it is useful to have a solicitor or barrister with you as they will make notes but in particular at a final hearing where you have to stand up and give evidence, we recommend having a barrister and solicitor present. This is because you will need to focus on giving your evidence, the barrister will be focused on the advocacy and representing you the best they can before the Judge and the solicitor will be there to help support you and the barrister to make sure nothing is missed.
Those involved in the court process will also write down everything that is said and so can be referred to later on if there is an issue.
Stay hydrated and remember to eat
Lastly it is important to stay hydrated and to keep your energy levels up as in some instances you could be at Court all day and you don’t want to pass out in the middle of giving your evidence.
Court is not the most pleasant of experiences as some people can find it quite stressful and their anxiety levels can be through the roof.
You may not feel like eating, but even a chocolate bar will help.