What To Expect in Family Court

Going to court can be a stressful experience for anyone, but it can be especially trying for people dealing with the emotionally charged issues of divorce and child custody.  It may help reduce the stress if you’re aware of what you can expect at court.

Getting to Court

Come to court EARLY.  Make sure you know the directions to the court before you leave and give yourself plenty of extra time. Usually you will have to wait on line to get in. You may have to wait again when you get inside. Bring a pen and something to read or do while you wait. Try not to bring your children to court. If you must bring them, you can leave them in the Children’s Center but only when you are in the courtroom.

What Should I Wear?

Dressing in a certain way does not mean that you will win or lose your case. However, it is important to show respect for the court. Lawyers normally wear suits, but the court understands that parties to cases in Family Court may not own suits and often do not have the money to buy them. In general, it is best to dress nicely. In court, this means conservatively.

Here are some guidelines:

  • No shorts or tank tops
  • Women should wear a dress or pants or a skirt with a blouse or sweater. Tight (stretch) pants, short skirts (more than 2 inches above the knee or with high splits), or sheer items are not a good idea.
  • Men should wear long pants and a shirt with a collar. They should wear a tie if they can.
  • Try not to wear jeans, t-shirts, or athletic shoes.
  • Never wear hats or sunglasses in the hearing.
  • Stay away from heavy cologne or perfume, lots of jewelry, or body glitter, as they may distract court personnel

Who will be in the courtroom?

Other people will be in the courtroom when you are there. Other lawyers may be waiting there for their cases. Court officers will be there wearing uniforms. Law clerks will be there to assist the judge. There might be a court stenographer there to type everything that anyone says during your case. Sometimes machines are used to record everything instead. People connected to your case may be there, including a caseworker, a lawyer for Child Protective Services, a lawyer for Suffolk or Nassau County, a lawyer for your child called a law guardian or attorney for the child, and a lawyer for the other party to your case. The people who are there will depend on what kind of case you have.

Am I allowed to speak in court?

When you are in a courtroom, you must remove your hat, be quiet, and show respect for the judge and the other people involved in your case. DO NOT INTERRUPT the judge while he or she is speaking. You will be given a chance to speak. (Sometimes it helps to write down the things you want to make sure you tell the judge.)

Can I give papers to the judge?

Sometimes. Many times the judge will read what you want to show him or her, but not always. If you bring papers that you want the judge to see, make sure they are neat and, if possible, have them typed. Bring copies for the other people involved in the case. Be sure to keep copies for yourself. You can also bring certificates to show the judge that you have completed programs, such as a parenting skills class, that may be related to the case.

For more information about Family Court, please visit our Family Court page here. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced family court attorney at Jacoby & Jacoby, call one of our four Long Island locations or contact us online. We are always available evenings and weekends.

Medford, NY: 631-289-4600
Miller Place, NY: 631-821-8800
Shirley, NY: 631-281-2234
Nassau County, NY: 888-452-2629

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