Getting Ready for Court
The night before your hearing, gather your paperwork, look at the courthouse address, plan to arrive early – parking can be tricky. Make sure you have a credit card, ATM card, or plenty of change for any parking meters around the courthouse. Talk with your attorney’s office to find out when and where you will meet your attorney. Get your clothes ready. Dress in business casual, pressed and neat. Eat a good meal. Go to bed and try to get a good night’s rest. Set your alarm. Set two if you have to. This will be one day you don’t want to be late. Walking in late NEVER looks good.
Court Day and What to Expect
It’s the day you have been waiting for since this whole mess started, and the day you have been dreading since this whole mess started. You have gathered and shared as much information as you can with your attorney, your investigators, maybe an Ad Litem. You may have that sick knot in your stomach, or you may be feeling completely confident. There is no “right” feeling here. A lot is on the line.
Now for a reality check. In Travis County, Texas the Family Court Docket gets called at 8:30am. If you have never been, here is a quick picture of what that looks like. Every case scheduled to be heard, every Attorney for both sides, every witness, every person directly involved in the suits are in one courtroom. Attorneys are going up and down the halls, stopping and making last minute filings, people are in the halls waiting. The judge comes into the courtroom and the bailiff tells everyone “All Rise, the Honorable xxx is now residing”. At this point everyone stands until the judge announces that everyone can be seated.
The judge starts reading off names. The Attorneys answer that they are present and state whether they are ready to proceed, have made last minute agreements, have extra filings, and lastly state how long they estimate the case will take to be heard. The judge then determines who will be hearing the case, what courtroom it will take place in. You are going to hear many cases being heard in the same room and they will be done in the order that the judge states.
New anxieties and feelings begin here. You may or may not agree with how long you are granted to hear your case. There may be several cases that are stated to take lengthy times ahead of you. You at some point will be thinking, “My attorney charges by the hour, my investigators and expert witnesses are charging by the hour. And I have only so much time left on my parking meter.” And you brace yourself. I urge you to remember at this point, your attorney, your investigator, and your expert witnesses have done this many, many times. It is new to you, and it is unnerving.
You are going to hear things presented. You are going to hear rebuttals. You are going to hear outright lies when the other side is confronted with evidence. When you are put on the stand you need to keep your composure. Your attorney is going to ask you questions. Any question you can answer with a yes or no – do just that, and nothing more. If your attorney wants you to give details, he or she will ask you. A good example of how to prepare for this is… Your attorney asks “Do you know what day it is?” Your answer is “Yes”. You do NOT answer “Yes, it is Tuesday”. Your attorney didn’t ask WHAT day it was, only if YOU knew what day it was.
Also remember, anything you answer will most likely be asked again, in a way designed to trip you up or make you seem unsure. Turning facts into opinions makes answers less credible and cause the judge to give it less value in the overall scheme of things. Remember, facts win cases, emotions cost money. It’s a cold hard fact.
Depending on how the case unfolded, your attorney may or may not have called your investigator. Not to worry. Your attorney may not have wanted to show all your cards, so to speak. Also, if your attorney may have been the one to receive reports from your investigator directly. You may not have seen the reports. You may have been paying your attorney and the attorney may have been the one that hired your investigator(s). That is a good thing. This means that any reports or evidence is the work product of the attorney and is not subject necessarily to Discovery. More on that later.
Now the ruling. The judge will lay out his/her ruling, provisions to the rulings and if this is Temporary Orders, then most likely set a date to come back and make Final Orders.
Anything and everything the judge orders in the Temporary Orders – you do. Don’t even think about trying to do something else, it will come back to bite you. BUT, anything and everything that is ordered is expected to be followed by your ex, too. This is where you may be able to use your investigators even more, especially if the investigator was never called during this hearing. You haven’t shown your hand and you still have time to gather additional evidence for the final hearing. This does happen very frequently. Catching people breaking the judges orders and providing evidence is important. This new evidence, along with evidence previously gathered strengthens your case.
Now you take a breath. Now you recharge. Soon it will be time to plan for the next hurdle.