Divorce and family lawyer Kate Butler explains how to prepare and what to expect if you are required to attend a court hearing in divorce proceedings.
In the vast majority of family cases, you won’t actually need to go to court but obviously it is something which can be quite worrying if you know that you have got a court hearing coming up.
The things you need to think about initially are, knowing exactly where you need to be – some towns have more than one court building so check your paperwork and make sure you have got the address. Make sure you get there in good time, check with your lawyer, ask them how early they need you to be there. Ask them if they want you to bring anything with you, the answer may well be no, but it’s best to check.
Most courts are relatively informal so think about dressing fairly smartly, your lawyer may well wear a suit, but there are no wigs and no gowns, your Judge or the Magistrates who deal with your case will probably be wearing suits.
Most hearings are dealt with in private so it is unlikely that there will be anybody else in the room but you, your lawyer, the other side and the person dealing with the case for you.
It is unlikely that you are going to need to say anything if you are there with your lawyer – your lawyer’s job is to speak for you and there are some rules as to who’s allowed to speak first. If there is anything that you are unsure about, you can whisper it to your lawyer and they should be able to turn around and help you.
Your court hearing will be listed to start at a particular time but you need to be prepared that it is very unlikely that you will actually go into court at that given time. The way that court lists work is that there are several hearings listed in the morning, several hearings listed in the afternoon.
In the vast majority of cases, a lot of the work in trying to resolve things amicably is done before the hearing by your lawyer speaking to your opponent’s lawyer to see if they can narrow the issues and sort things out between themselves. Even if your case is only listed for half an hour, you still need to be prepared that you are likely to be at court for the best part of half a day.
Depending on the type of case you are dealing with, there may be other people that need to be involved. For example on a children case, there may well be a CAFCASS Officer or a child mediator who is present at court who may want to speak to you and possibly your ex-partner to see if they can help you sort things out before you go in and see the Judge or the Magistrates. In summary, going to court is nothing to be worried about, but it is best to be prepared.