Going to trial can be quite expensive and stressful. If you find yourself going to trial, it’s likely that you’ve already exhausted the less adversarial methods of settling, and you might feel exhausted.
Regardless of how you may feel, it’s essential to put your best foot – and face – forward when you are appearing before a judge.
Many intangible factors can influence the decisions of a judge. These can include the way you dress, the way you speak, your body language, and overall composure.
Dressing the Part
The best adjective to describe the appropriate attire for the courtroom is “conservative.” You should wear a suit, tie, and long pants or a skirt. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney what they recommend as appropriate attire.
The Way You Speak
Choose your words, and your tone of voice, carefully. As much as possible, keep your tone of voice neutral, and your volume consistent with the setting. Avoid personal and emotionally charged attacks on your spouse and their counsel.
One trick people use in business settings is communicating in the “passive voice.” If who did something isn’t an essential fact, you can take the emphasis off of the person and instead focus on the action. For example, “Bob spent the money” focuses on Bob. “The money was spent already” focuses on the money. Keeping your mind on the facts and not your spouse can help you stay calm. Of course, if the relevant detail is who did something, you must say that.
Another tool you can use is mirroring. If you focus on the judge, rather than on your spouse or their counsel, you will naturally and unconsciously begin to echo their neutral and impartial tone.
Your Body Language
Slouching in your chair, sighing heavily, rolling your eyes, and constantly looking at the clock are all subtle expressions of disrespect. Even if these are directed at your spouse, it will come across to a judge as disrespect for the court, or rudeness toward the judge themself.
A calm and collected litigant will often reap the rewards of their composure, especially in the face of an angry spouse.
Above all, address the court and the judge with politeness and deference. Remember, judges are human, and despite any other factors, they will look favorably on people who show respect for the court.