Lawyers who appear in court must follow the court’s rules of behavior and conduct. People who appear in court without a lawyer must follow the same rules of behavior.
Each judge, magistrate, and hearing officer sets the rules for his or her courtroom, but there are rules that are the same for each courtroom. Each person appearing in court must be respectful to the court, the court staff, the witnesses, the bailiffs and each other.
Please check with your local court for specific rules of conduct. Below are general rules to follow for any courtroom appearance.
Preparing for your day in court:
- Arrive at least twenty (20) minutes before your hearing is scheduled to begin.
- Allow extra time to park, go through security, and find the correct courtroom. This may take longer in large cities.
- Be sure that you have gone to the correct courthouse if your circuit has more than one.
- In many circuits, a number of cases are set at the same time. If you are not there when the judge calls your case, the judge may dismiss your case and you will need to reschedule.
- File original notarized documents.
- Provide the other person with a copy of everything you file.
- Read all Orders and Notices carefully.
- Advise the court of any special accommodations you may need.
- Stand when you are addressing the court and address the judge as “your honor.”
- Speak in a loud and clear voice so the judge can hear you.
- Do not interrupt when the other party is speaking.
- Be prepared. Read the documents that have been filed and be prepared to present your case to the court.
- Be patient. You will have a chance to present your side.
- Bring with you any evidence and witnesses you wish the court to consider in support of your case. The court cannot consider written statements from witnesses.
- Be sure the documents you file and the statements you make state clearly what you are asking the court to do for you. The court cannot grant relief that you do not ask for.
General Rules: the Dos and Don’ts
- DO NOT bring children to the courthouse, if possible, unless the judge tells you to.
- DO dress appropriately (“church” clothes) to show respect for the Court.
- DO NOT bring new boyfriends or girlfriends.
- DO keep your emotions under control – be nice and polite.
- DO turn off cell phones and pagers.
- DO provide your own language interpreter, if necessary. (Read more about court interpreters)
Ten (10) Things You Need to Know about Family Court
Found in the brochure: Ten (10) Things You Need to Know about Family Court – Self-represented Litigants Series (pdf) produced by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
The PDF document talks about the following topics:
- What the Court can and cannot do
- Who you will see in the courtroom (the people)
- Local Rules
- Legal Standards
- Court-related Proceedings
- Court Hearings
- Post-judgment Issues
- Learn about your Family Court