It is the day of your Divorce hearing. You rise and dress with extra care. Whether you are going to be represented by a divorce lawyer or not, you are nervous. People attend Court without Lawyers in Divorce proceedings all the time. Here are some ideas to ensure that your divorce is granted and you remain free of embarrassment and stress while you represent yourself in your divorce hearing.
This article is written specifically for Australian Divorces, so I refer to Australian Divorce law. If you are in another Country, then you may find some useful general tips about your behaviour. After all, judges seem to share the same desire for respect and good preparation, whichever country their Courtroom occupies.
If you go to Court with a Lawyer, then some of this information is for you too. Your lawyer will have all of the legal stress, but you need to conduct yourself with dignity even though a divorce was never part of your life plan!
The two things you need to consider when going to Court for your divorce, are firstly, to be prepared, and secondly, to be respectful.
Although you may worry about whether or not your documents are correct and whether you have done everything you are supposed to have done in relation to serving them on your spouse, there is more to preparation than simply crossing t’s and dotting i’s. You should have your documents in some sort of folder and I recommend labelling them somehow, so that when you have to refer to one in court, you can locate it quickly and easily. I prefer to use a system of sticky notes on the right hand side of the documents with the name and date of the document on it. Alternatively you could make a front sheet where all of your documents are listed with their dates, and allocated a number. The documents are then placed behind that front index sheet and the sticky notes then have the number of the document on them.
You will need to have a notepad without a cover for writing notes of dates or other things on, and two pens in case one of them lets you down.
I think respect is shown in three ways in an Australian Court.
The first is in your dress. Men should wear long pants, button shirt and dark shoes. A coat is nice to have. Jeans are not acceptable in my opinion. Women should not wear sports clothes or cocktail dresses (both of which I have seen in my career) but should wear what would be regarded as good day clothes or a business attire.
The second way respect is shown is in your speech. You should only speak when spoken to by a judge, or when he or she is looking expectantly at you and you realize he is waiting for you to respond or commence. Never interrupt a judge. When you do speak to a judge, (in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia) ) then you must use the title of ” Your Honour” and use it quite often. So you may answer “yes, your Honour” or if speaking not in response to a question, then commence with “Your Honour, I am here to” etc.
The third way to show respect in the Court is in your demeanor. Do not eat or drink anything in Court, except to sip from the water glasses on the bar table if necessary. Don’t chew gum, or eat cough lollies.
Enter and leave the Court quietly, and sit up straight. Listen to what is said, and don’t show emotion. If the divorce is granted, the judge will usually start a little speech with “I find that the Husband and Wife were married at” and so on. If your divorce is granted, or if it is not, say nothing, except “Thank you, Your Honour,” and don’t leave the bar table until someone else comes to take your place for their divorce hearing, or until the judge says “you are excused”.
Leave the Court quietly and quickly and don’t speak until you are outside the court and away from the recording devices.