It’s the day of your divorce hearing. You get up and dress very carefully. Whether or not you are going to be represented by a divorce attorney, you are nervous. People expect court without lawyers in divorce proceedings all the time. Here are some ideas to make sure your divorce is granted and remain shame and stress free while representing yourself at your divorce hearing.
This article is written specifically for Australian divorces, by which I am referring to Australian divorce law. If you are in another country, you may find some general tips about your behavior helpful. After all, judges seem to share the same desire for respect and good preparation, regardless of the country in which their courtroom is located.
If you go to court with a lawyer, some of this information is for you, too. Your attorney will have all the legal stress, but you must conduct yourself with dignity even though divorce was never part of your life plan!
The two things you need to keep in mind when going to court for your divorce are firstly to be prepared and secondly to be respectful.
To be prepared:
While you may be concerned about whether or not your documents are correct and whether or not you’ve done everything you’re supposed to in relation to serving your spouse, there’s more to preparation than just crossing t’s and dotting i’s. You should have your documents in some kind of folder and I recommend that you label them in some way, 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 side of the documents with the name and date of the document. Alternatively, you can make a front sheet where all your documents are listed with their dates and assigned a number. The documents are then placed behind that front index sheet and the sticky notes have the document number.
You will need to have an open notebook to write notes of dates or other things, and two pens in case one fails you.
I think respect is shown in three ways in an Australian court.
The first is on your dress. Men should wear long pants, a button-down shirt, and dark shoes. A coat is nice to have. Jeans are not acceptable in my opinion. Women should not wear sportswear or cocktail dresses (both of which I have seen in my career), but rather should wear what would be considered good day wear or business attire.
The second way respect is shown is in your speech. You should only speak when a judge speaks to you, or when he or she looks at you expectantly and realizes that you are waiting for him or her to respond or begin. Never interrupt a judge. When speaking to a judge (at the Federal Magistrates Court in Australia), you should use the title “Your Honor” and use it quite often. So you can answer “yes, your honor” or if you don’t answer a question, then start with “Your honor, I’m here to”, etc.
The third way to show respect in court is with your behavior. Do not eat or drink anything in Court, except sip from water glasses at the bar table if necessary. Do not chew gum or eat cough drops.
Go in and out of Court quietly, and sit up straight. Listen to what is being said and show no emotion. If the divorce is granted, the judge will usually start a short speech with “I believe the husband and wife were married in” and so on. If your divorce is granted, or if it isn’t, say nothing except “Thank you, Your Honor,” and don’t leave the bar table until someone else comes to take your place for the divorce hearing, or until the judge says “you are exempt”.
Leave the court quietly and quickly and do not speak until you are off the court and away from recording devices.