Very few people ask me this question and very few attorneys talk about this topic on their websites. Here, I will provide you with some very basic information on how to prepare for going to Court when you have a family law case and for some pitfalls to avoid:
First, watch this video on how to dress for Court:
Second, watch this video on what not to say when you go to Court:
Prior to going to Court, you should have a meeting with your attorney to go over all of the filed paperwork and get prepared for what could be a long day. If the issues to be decided include financial issues such as child or spousal support, as a general rule, you should bring your last three years of tax returns and any loan applications you filled out over the last two years (whether the loan was approved or not). Most courts require this information at a minimum. Also, your Income and Expense Declaration becomes stale after 90 days so if the case was continued or postponed a few times, make sure your Income and Expense Declaration is completely updated and current.
Next, you must prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes things occur which are out of your or your attorney's control. These surprises are part of family law litigation. Such things to expect when you least expect them include:
1. Your case was set for 8:30 a.m., but the Court doesn't get to it in the morning and you have to come back at 1:30 p.m. thereby killing your day.
2. The Court might say that it can't find a document you filed and therefore did not read it. Make sure you bring conformed (court stamped) copies. This is especially true in Los Angeles County.
3. If your case is set in Los Angeles County, try to get to Court as early as you can. Sometimes parking can be difficult and the lines at the metal detectors can be long.
4. You might have prepared for a contested hearing, but the Court orders your case to the Daily Settlement Officer where you participate in what could be an all day mediation.
5. You show up to Court and the Judge is ill. This means that a temporary judge is filling in, which invariably results in a continuance.
6. When the Court calls your case, it concludes that it needs a full hearing to decide the issues so you need to come back at 1:30 to literally conduct a mini trial with witnesses.
7. The Court can rule in a way that neither of the parties expect or want.
8. There is a completely new Judge assigned to your department who neither attorney knows.
There are probably more, but I am sure you get the picture. Be prepared for everything and assume nothing.
Jeffrey L. Hoffer