2011: Top 10 Tips Before Going to Your Divorce, Legal Separation, or Paternity Hearing

San Diego has several court houses which hear paternity, divorce and legal separation cases. In these San Diego court houses, San Diego Superior Court Judges are assigned to individual departments and make orders regarding issues in your legal separation, divorce or paternity case. Many who go to court are not familiar with the procedures or rules and may, inadvertently, do or say something which could be devastating to their divorce, legal separation or paternity case. These top 10 “tips” can help you avoid some of the mistakes others make.

1. Don’t Argue with or Interrupt the Judge: Very few things you can do will upset a Judge more than arguing with the Judge or interrupting the Judge. Wait until the Judge finishes and it is your turn before speaking. You can present your evidence or facts or documents and your legal position but do not argue with the Judge in any way.

2. Turn Off Your Cell Phone: Judges hate when the cell phone go off in the court room. It is very distracting and almost all Bailiff’s will advise you to turn off your cell phone {or put on vibrate} when you are in the court room. It is best to turn off your phone completely as you do not want to be distracted by your phone vibrating while you are before the Judge. You need to have 100% concentration and listen to the questions of the Judge or the Judge’s comments and, especially, the Judge’s ruling.

3. Arrive Early: It is very important not to be late. Being late can have the consequence of being ruled against due to a default. If you have never been to the court where you have your hearing, it is advisable to go a day which is convenient for you before the hearing so you will know where the court house is, where to park and where the court room for your case is located. It is easy to hit traffic or get lost and this will add stress and tension to an already stressful situation.

4. Dress Appropriately: Show respect to the Court and the Judge by dressing appropriately. Wearing a cut off short, cut off t shirt and sandals to Court will not convey the impression you want. You do not have to wear a business suit [for men or women] but formal attire is very important. The Bailiff will, normally, as you to remove sunglasses and hats inside the court room so do not be surprised by this.

5. Follow the Court Rules: Of course, do not bring any weapons or contraband to court. All of the San Diego Superior Court’s have a weapons screening process and all are subject to search upon entering the court house. Make sure you know what is classified as a weapon or contraband since you do not want to be arrested before your hearing. In addition, do not talk in the audience while court is in session and you are not allowed to record or video inside the court room. If you want a copy of what was said by all during your hearing, you can ask for the phone number for the Court Reporter and they will send a copy for a fee.

6. Don’t Interrupt Opposing Party: As with the Judge, it is a very bad idea to interrupt the other party or get upset in any way while you are in front of the Judge. The Judge’s expect {and demand} that all are treated with courtesy and respect and you can seriously damage your case if you interrupt the other party and make any threatening remarks.

7. Bring a Notebook and Pen: You may not want to pay for a court reporter transcript but want to remember what happened in court for a future date. Make sure to bring a notebook and a pen and you can write down what happened and what the Judge’s orders are while it is fresh in your mind. Make sure to keep this notebook in a safe place.

8. Have Your File Organized with all Pleadings and Proofs of Service: It is easy to get flustered in court and forget while in front of the Judge. There may be many cases either in front or behind you and there can be time pressure to move forward. It is very important to have separated and organized all filed pleadings and the proof of service. If there is an issue with the opposing party contesting service, it is very useful to have this right at hand.

9. Make Sure Your Time and Date of Hearing is Correct: The San Diego Superior Court has a website which is very easy to use. There is a section for the official court calendar and you can search by your case number. Sometimes hearings are continued by the Judge and you do not receive the notice even though it was mailed. Since many take time off from work and prepare and this is a stressful time, it is very important to make sure the time and date of the hearing is correct.

10. Remember Everyone is Watching in Court: It cannot be stressed enough that there are cameras all through the court house and not just the court room. You are being watched when in the court house and do not do or say anything you would not want to be repeated in front of the Judge hearing your case. This is also a very good rule in general and be careful of what you say and do.

Please feel free to contact us for your pending court hearing and we would be pleased to offer a confidential consultation regarding legal representation.

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