A frequent question I hear is, “what should I say when we go to court?” This question is often asked because most people have never set foot inside a courtroom, and only a small percentage of people going to court have ever been called to testify.
In this new era of appearing in family court remotely, where clients call into the courtroom from their home or mobile phones, there is more reason than ever to discuss how they should speak when the judge calls their case.
Given the circumstances, there is little I can do when clients speak from their separate phones (which the Los Angles court system requires), and they blurt something out that makes me cringe. Unfortunately, I cannot unring the bell, and I do not have a mute button to silence my client’s phone. Instead, I am forced to do damage control.
Consequently, if you have a pending family court hearing and want to maximize your chance of receiving a favorable ruling, use the following tips to guide what you should say when the judge calls your matter.
First, speak only when the court addresses you directly or when your attorney asks you questions. Jumping in when your attorney is arguing on your behalf can be disastrous. Blurting out your feelings about the bad things that are going on in your relationship with the other party might feel good in the moment, but believe me, the judge hears your type of situation every day. The judge does not need to listen to you complain about something inconsequential to the hearing and will most likely have an unfavorable impression of you. The judge will also get distracted from giving your side of the story proper consideration.
Likewise, do not try to take control by injecting facts and arguments into the proceedings. You hired an attorney for a reason. Trust your attorney to persuade the court to rule in your favor. When you jump in and advocate for yourself, you create what I call a “Two-Headed Monster.” Experience shows that having a two-headed monster in court is harmful because you and your attorney run the risk of contradicting each other, impairing your credibility.
Finally, keep your testimony short and sweet. Answer the questions posed to you directly. If you ramble on because you think it will be helpful, you will likely say something your attorney did not want you to say. As the old sayings go, “loose lips sink ships,” and ninety-nine percent of the time, “less is more.” Your job in family court is to be a good witness and ambassador for yourself. Speak only when spoken to, think before you speak, and answer questions in a straightforward manner.
Follow this advice to boost your chances of winning in court or ignore it and suffer the consequences.