Most people facing a case in family court know they will need to speak in court, but what they may not realize is the importance of presenting a strong and persuasive argument. This is a technique that lawyers are trained to implement with impeccable delivery, but you can emulate, for the most part, this style of presenting to use in court yourself.
Below are common questions individuals facing a family court hearing ask and some corresponding tips to answer each concern. By incorporating these tips into your approach, you can increase your chance of a successful court appearance.
How Do You Speak Confidently in Court?
Tip 1: Pre-Writing and Rewriting
Much of what is necessary to succeed in court is actually done before your court date. The written material submitted to the judge ahead of time to inform them of case details is an important element of your case. This is your first opportunity to show the judge what you want and why the court should give it to you. Writing in the most clear and straightforward language possible and organizing your points in a logical way that makes sense to the judge is ideal.
Whether you’re representing yourself or you’ve appointed an attorney, it’s important to recognize that the key to good legal writing is editing and rewriting. Any submissions to the court should be reviewed after writing to determine if the argument would be logical to an outsider. Then, they should be reviewed again. If you’re submitting a document for your court case, ask your attorney or someone else to review your writing and offer suggestions of where it is unclear or where it could be more focused. This is not a place to vent but rather to inform. This can be effective in getting the judge on your side before you even stand up to speak in front of the court.
Tip 2: Prepare in Advance
Gather all the information, material, documents, and evidence that you need to prove your side of your case. This may include bank statements to show money that you have in bank accounts, account statements to show investment values or assets, insurance policies, property ownership papers, past tax records, or utility bills. If you need documentation from your employer or medical professional, make sure to secure this well before your court date. Make a checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything. Keep everything organized and collected in the same place. Review all materials before your court date, ensuring they are organized, complete, and accessible in an ordered manner.
Be familiar with your documents, labeling everything clearly so you can access it in a second’s time. It can be embarrassing fumbling through loose papers in front of the court in search of a specific document the judge is asking for.
Tip 3: Be Detail-Oriented
Presenting an argument for your case that highlights all the essential details and none of the irrelevant ones is a difficult task. Focus on what pertains to your case and cut the fluff and extraneous details that will only convolute what really matters.
In addition, make sure you pay attention to details when filling out paperwork related to your case. Filling out the wrong form, not completing a form properly, leaving off important info, or misrepresenting information, even if it is unintentional, can cause problems for your case.
Tip 4: Two Sentences That Answer Two Questions
Being prepared mentally and physically for court can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case. One of the first things you can do to prepare is to practice addressing the judge by summarizing your story in two sentences that answer two questions: “Why are you here?” and “What result do you want?” Leave out your complaints against the other side, even if you have the urge to provide a rebuttal to things said about you. The judge will appreciate your brevity and self-control. If it’s not something you believe your attorney would say in court, you probably shouldn’t say it either.
Some examples of two-sentence family court summaries are below:
- “Your Honour, I am here because I recently experienced a loss of income after I was laid off and forced to take a lesser-paying job. I am requesting a modification order for reduced child support payments.”
- “Your Honor, my former spouse plans to remarry and move to a different city, and this will be harmful to my relationship with my children and the nature of the time we have together. I am opposing her request.”
By keeping your message short and to the point, you show respect for the court’s time, which can be an effective way to present your argument. Once you draft your two sentences, practice saying them loudly and clearly, projecting your voice without shouting.
Tip 5: Consider How You Speak
Speak slowly and clearly. When asked a question, think about your answer for a few seconds before answering. Gathering your thoughts can help you form a more clear and logical answer. It can also allow you to answer the question better. When you start speaking too fast and without direction, you can come off as untrustworthy. You want the court to trust your word, so think about what you say before you say it.
Tip 6: Do Your Research
It is in your best interest to do research on existing cases similar to yours, learn the lingo, and explore sites like this one to learn as much as you can before heading into court. You may also need to research information on the evidence that you will use to support your side of the case. Being informed and knowledgeable about anything you plan to discuss will ultimately make you a more confident courtroom speaker, and it will show.
How Do You Present Yourself in Front of a Judge?
Tip 7: Be Respectful
Of course, you plan to respect the judge and other officials of the court, but you should plan to extend a respectful demeanor to the other party in your case. Resist the temptation to be rude or defame their conduct if it is unrelated to your case. If you must present unfavorable evidence, do so in a clear and straightforward manner with a succinct explanation of why it is relevant.
Before including anything in your presentation to the judge, ask yourself if it applies to the issue at hand on which the judge must make a ruling. If it does not apply fully, it is best to leave it out to avoid painting your own case in a negative light. You want the court to see you as a respectful and respectable individual. By presenting yourself in this manner, your most critical concerns and points are more likely to be heard. If the opposing party is being difficult, the judge will notice without your influence. Let them establish their own reputation with the court without tarnishing yours.
If it doesn’t look like the judge is leaning your way, suggest a compromise. Showing a willingness to work as a team with the opposition will make an impression on the court.
Tip 8: Dress the Part
The better you dress, the better you will be accepted and respected in the courtroom. When you first appear before the court, you want to make a first impression that shows you value the opportunity to represent yourself in a court of law. By dressing professionally, you show the judge that this is important to you, you are taking it seriously, and you are confident. You should not only show respect but also command respect, with the class and distinction owed to the court.
Tip 9: Address the Judge Appropriately
Always use formal titles when addressing a judge, such as “Your Honor” or “Judge (their last name).” Avoid answering any question without including this title.
Tip 10: Be Mindful of Deadlines
Pay attention to important deadlines regarding your case. There will be specific dates by which you must file paperwork and submit certain documents. Missing one deadline could delay your case. Having a dedicated calendar with important dates can ensure you do not miss any deadlines pertaining to your case.
Tip 11: Arrive on Time to Court Dates
One of the worst things you can do for your reputation in court is show up late. Walking in late and settling in is not only disruptive and disrespectful to the court – it’s also embarrassing. Schedule yourself to arrive early, giving yourself time to park, walk to the courthouse, and find the courtroom with extra time for any mishaps along the way.
Tip 12: Plan to Wait
Your case may be the first one to be called (see Tip #7), but it may not be. Waiting in court can be a long day, so get in the mindset that you will be there for a while. Clear your schedule for the entire day, just in case. Use the time to listen to the cases ahead of yours on the docket to get an idea of what to expect from the judge.
You may also want to use the time waiting in court to continue to prepare to go before the judge by studying your notes. What you don’t want to do is act or sound annoyed every time your case isn’t called. It can get quiet in the courtroom at times, and any wrong movement can echo or reverb and cause everyone to turn their eyes toward the noise and the person who made it.
On that same note, you should also be prepared to wait in long courthouse lines in some cases. Always plan accordingly.
How Do You Present Well in Court?
Tip 13: Remove Yourself From the Situation
It is important to distance yourself emotionally, which is just one reason there is such value in hiring a lawyer who is not emotionally affected by your situation. You are not an objective and neutral party to your own case. Therefore, in order to present an effective argument, you must get in the mindset of an outsider’s perspective and view your situation with a realistic and practical approach.
Evaluate your motives. If you are motivated by spite, jealousy, or revenge, or just simply want to win so the other party loses, those reasons won’t help you in court. Establish why you are taking the position you are taking and eliminate any feelings of ill will to help you focus on making an effective presentation for your case.
If you find you have negative motives, re-frame your state of mind, try to think from a positive place, and reposition your approach.
Tip 14: Call on Friends and Family For Help
Not everyone is good at everything. Ask for help if you need it. If you’re unorganized, ask someone you trust to help you keep your paperwork in order before court. If you know you have trouble being on time, ask someone who is timely to hold you accountable on the morning of.
Tip 15: Have a Strategy Planned in Advance
Map out how you plan to present your case in advance, and when you get to court, carry out your plan, step by step, without diverging. You won’t be able to anticipate everything that will happen in court, but if you are well-prepared and focused, you will have an appropriate reaction, answer, and demeanor for anything that takes you off guard.
How Do You Persuade a Judge to Rule in Your Favor?
Tip 16: Understand Your Goal
Making a strong and persuasive argument in court is important in any case. Understanding why it is important is key to developing an effective case. As a representative to the court, your primary goal is to influence the court and convey to the judge your position. The stronger your argument, the more likely you are to sway the opinion of the court to adopt your position. By convincing them to change their perspective through effective persuasion, you ultimately influence their decision, and hopefully, it will be in your favor.
Tip 17: Consult a Family Attorney
An experienced and knowledgeable family attorney is the surest way to make the best impression possible and persuade a judge to ultimately rule in your favor. Experience is invaluable when presenting in court, and that’s something you cannot pick up overnight. There is no tip to help you gain experience. A well-established attorney is a force in a courtroom and can make the best possible argument in your favor.
Consult with The Valley Law Group to discuss the potential advantages an attorney can offer you and learn exactly what employing professional legal services can add to your case. Taking chances is not recommended for life-changing events and family court proceedings.
Jonathan Roeder, Founder/Director of Marketing of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.