Most California divorce cases require at least one court hearing. While you should not worry about going to court, there are a few things you should know in order to be prepared.
California Family Courts are usually less formal than Civil Litigation Courts, but certain rules and manners still apply. For example, no matter which the courtroom you are visiting, you should always dress professionally and be courteous.
While you should not worry about going to court, there are a few things you should know in order to be prepared.
Never Walk into a Courtroom Unprepared
Meet with your attorney several weeks before the hearing to go over documents and your testimony. If you are asked to bring paperwork to your hearing, be sure to have copies made (that you can keep at home) and familiarize yourself with each document so you can quickly explain them to your attorney, if necessary.
A courtroom can be a stressful place. Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy meal before you arrive. The more rested and relaxed you are, the easier it will be to manage the stress you will encounter at the courthouse.
Don’t Be Late!
Allow for extra driving time and be prepared to walk through a metal detector. You also need to allow for time to find the courtroom where your case has been assigned. Usually, California courthouses list each case on their master calendar system. Reference the posted information or ask a clerk to assist you.
Arriving in the Courtroom
Once you arrive in the courtroom, you’ll notice several different personnel at the front of the court.
- The bailiff maintains order in the courtroom and assists the judge with exhibits and other documents.
- The clerk schedules cases, maintains files, and interfaces with the attorneys.
- The court reporter transcribes court testimony so there is a written record. Not every court has a reporter, since some courtrooms use video recording equipment.
The Hearing Begins
When it is time for the judge to review your case, the clerk will call your case and each of the parties will stand at the front (before the judge). Your attorney will state that he or she represents you and before any person testifies, he or she will state their oath to tell the truth.
When it’s your turn to testify, your attorney will ask you to sit in the witness stand and then conduct a “direct examination.” You will be familiar with the questions your attorney asks, because you will have already gone over this information. When it’s time for the opposing attorney to “cross-examine” you there may be some surprise questions, but again, your attorney will have prepped you accordingly.
After testimony is completed for both sides, each attorney makes a closing argument. This is the opportunity for each attorney to argue your position and persuade the judge to see things in your favor. The judge will either make a decision right away or will ask for time to consider your case.