If you go to a court trial as a self-represented party, you might feel overwhelmed by the court process. This is especially the case if you’ve never been there before. Nonetheless, you are required to have some general information and follow court rules and the law. Unfortunately, you may not be all too familiar with legal issues and procedures. With this in mind, this write-up seeks to give you some going-to-court tips to help you ease up.
1. Don’t Miss Your Court Date.
The most important thing to remember about your court case is the date. By all means, the court is not any casual appointment that you can miss or reschedule. Besides, if you miss the court date or are late for the court hearing, you may lose your case. The judge can decide to dismiss your case or enter a judgment against you.
However, if you have a perfect reason why you can’t attend the court session, you can request that the case be “continued.” In other words:
● Call the opposing party or their attorney before the court date and continue the case.
● If they agree, let them put it in writing. Then, you’ll write a “Motion to Continue” indicating the day you’re requesting the court to reschedule the case to in your motion. Ensure you mention that the “Opposing party agrees to the change” in your action. Avail it to the other party or their attorney for signing.
● Please send it to the court clerk and keep a copy.
● Your hearing date will remain unchanged until the court approves your motion. However, stay in touch with the clerk’s office to check if the court has approved the move.
2. Arrive in Good Time
Another going-to-court tip you should keep in mind is to ensure you’re in court early enough before the hearing starts. If it’s your first time there, you may not know your way around, particularly in large courthouses with intricate hallways. You may end up running late if you’re not sure of where to go. Hence, arriving early gives you an excellent chance to settle down and relax as you familiarize yourself with the environment. Besides, you have enough time to find the correct courtroom where your case is.
As a tip for finding your way around, you can use courtroom digital signage to help in wayfinding. Check the main courthouse lobby for a digital directory for directions. Most courts now provide digital maps pointing to specific courtrooms and courthouse directory listings.
3. Dress Appropriately
You must show respect for the court in the way you dress. While you don’t have to buy new clothes for a court appearance, t-shirts, tank tops, worn-out jeans, sunglasses, and halter tops are inappropriate. Dress in the same way you would for a job interview. Also, don’t chew gum, drink, or eat in the courtroom.
4. Behavior in the Courtroom
Remember to sign in once you get to the specific courtroom where your case is. Doing so alerts the court that you’re there already. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to the court staff or court clerk. They’ll assist you appropriately.
It’s equally important that you:
● Don’t bring children to court, as many of the things discussed in court aren’t appropriate for them. Consider getting childcare services for your child.
● Bring your evidence and copies of each document you may have, and be prepared
● Stand as the judge enters or leaves the courtroom
● Speak to the judge while standing. They’ll let you know when to talk.
● Never get into an argument with the other party in court. Instead, speak calmly and confidently and always speak directly to the judge unless asked to answer questions from the other side. Similarly, don’t interrupt when there’s something you disagree with. Alternatively, raise your hand to show the judge you have something to say and wait to be allowed to speak.
● Be audible when speaking and address the judge as “your honor.” Also, try to use legal language if possible.
● Don’t talk on your way out of the courtroom, even outside the door
● Remember not to bring your cell phone to the courtroom. If you must, ensure you switch it off.
● Ensure the court has your current mailing address and contact information, as the judge may need time to cross-examine your case. Later, they may decide to mail the decision once it’s out.
Lastly, remember that court sessions sometimes drag depending on the cases going on. Thus, allow yourself plenty of time before and after your hearing for travel and other engagements in your day.
The courtroom calls for proper conduct and behavior. If you have never been to court before, you may feel overwhelmed and lost if you don’t have legal advice. Nonetheless, the above going-to-court tips can help ease the tension and prepare you for what’s to come. Dress well, show up, be confident, do your part, and hope that you get a fair ruling at the end of it all.
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