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How to Behave in Family Court

When making a good first impression, etiquette is essential. This is especially true in the courtroom, where there are many state, and unwritten, rules of conduct for litigants, lawyers, jurors, other courtroom personnel, and attendees.

When you have to appear in court, it is imperative to abide by the following rules of courtroom etiquette:

  • Dress appropriately - Dressing in a professional, conservative manner is a sign of respect for the judge and the court. Men should wear a suit, or wear a dress shirt with slacks. Women should wear either a conservative dress, business suit, or a conservative blouse and dress pants. Avoid wearing bright colors and revealing clothing. If you would choose to wear it on the weekend, don't wear it to court.
  • Arrive early - Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled court appearance, or earlier if requested by the lawyer. Anticipate extra time for traffic, parking your vehicle, transit delays, and to wait in line to go through the metal detector at the entrance of the courthouse.
  • Turn your cellphone off - Nothing will get on the judge's nerve more than hearing a cellphone ring in his or her courtroom. If you absolutely need to have your smartphone on, change the settings to vibrate. Keep in mind, cellphone use is typically prohibited in the courtroom. The court officer will likely take your cellphone away from you if it rings.
  • Keep your emotions in check - Avoid showing faces, gestures, or any signs of anger or disdain for the other side. Some lawyers will attempt to make inflammatory statements in order to incite a negative reaction, so do not fall for it. If you have to communicate with your attorney, either quietly pass him or her a note or discuss your thoughts once the hearing is over.
  • Do not speak out of turn - Only speak when you are instructed to do so. Do not argue with anyone, particularly the judge. If the judge makes a ruling you do not approve of, stay quiet. Keep your emotions in check, remember?
  • Speak confidently - Whenever you speak, maintain eye contact and speak loudly and clearly. You should always stand when addressing the judge or court, unless directed otherwise. When you are done speaking, briefly thank the judge for his or her attention. Ensure you speak with clarity and firmness.
  • Answer questions clearly and carefully - Always answer each question honestly and to the best of your ability. Lying on the stand is perjury, which may result in legal charges if discovered. If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification. Do not rush to answer each question since it is perfectly fine to pause and think for a few moments before providing an answer.
  • Be kind to the courtroom staff - The court officers and clerks are responsible for making the courts run sufficiently. In many courtrooms, the court officers inform the judge which cases are ready to be heard. If you fail to make good terms with court officers, your case may be the last one called.

If you are interested in filing for divorce or modifying a current court order in New Hampshire, contact our Manchester family law attorney at Sekella Law, PLLC today.

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