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Your Day in Court

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Common Sense Tips to Consider As You Prepare for Trial

Your trial date. It is a day that few parties in a family law case want to endure. Nevertheless, in spite of your numerous attempts to settle, mediate, and negotiate your way out of trial with the other side, it is almost here. While all fact patterns, and therefore trials, are unique, the following are some basic tips and strategies for you to keep in mind as you prepare for your day in court.

  1. Communication with Your Legal Team: Good communication with your legal team is important during any time in your case. In the weeks preceding your trial date, it is absolutely essential in order to have good legal representation at trial. During this period, your legal team (attorney, paralegal, other firm staff) is going to need to reach you on short notice to request documents, discuss trial strategy, review witnesses and exhibits, and process settlement offers from you or the other party. Please do not make poor communication one more issue for your legal team to concern themselves with before trial. Respond promptly to your attorney’s phone calls and emails. Provide them with whatever requested information is reasonably in your possession. Be attentive and provide feedback on any settlement proposals they send your way. Make time on your calendar for at least one trial prep meeting with your attorney.

In short, make your legal team a priority for prompt, professional communication as your trial date approaches in your case.

  1. Loss of Control Over Outcome of Case : This concept may not have sunk in completely, no matter how many times your attorney has tried to explain it to you. But, once you put on a trial of your case, you lose control over the final outcomes of any issues presented to the judge. This does not mean your attorney is powerless or will not zealously advocate for you at trial. It does mean that the judge may not see things the same as you do and may not issue your desired results. Remember, the judge will likely hear two very different versions of whatever issues are tried before them. There will be different witnesses, exhibits, and arguments presented on both sides. There may be an expert witness that the judge will give more weight to than lay witnesses. The judge will be observing everything the day of trial, especially you, and it is impossible for your attorney to predict exactly how the court will view your credibility on the stand.

If you choose to have your day in court, you are also choosing to put final decision-making authority over tried issues in the judge’s hands. You lose control of the outcome on the issues in dispute.

  1. Logistics: You should familiarize yourself as much as possible with the courthouse and your specific courtroom prior to trial. This may include going to the courthouse and getting a firsthand look at your specific courtroom for trial. You should plan where you are going to park the day of trial. You and/or your attorney should inform your witnesses where to park and what time they might testify in trial. You and all your witnesses testifying should dress business formal or as formal as reasonably possible, including buttoned shirts, ties, slacks and avoid excessive skin-bearing clothing so as to show respect to the court. You should plan for your trial to take most, if not all of your day from work and other regular activities.

Get familiarized with the logistics of your trial day. Hopefully, your legal team has been collaborating with you on these and other trial logistics in your case so that you are as familiar as possible with them at trial.

  1. Life Goes On: Your trial is one of the more important days of your life. It is also just one or maybe a few days before the rest of your life. You may have to co-parent with the person on the other side after hearing some hurtful testimony from them in court. The person, family and friends you previously built your life around may say painful things about you and your character on the stand. All that said, life goes on and so must you. For yourself, and for your children if custody is at issue, you will need to prepare yourself for a new reality after your trial. To do this, surround yourself with a good support system, if possible, seek out therapy or counseling, and make self-care a priority before and after trial.

Your day in court has finally arrived. Be prepared as much as possible for trial by keeping these common sense tips and suggestions in mind. For further assistance and advice with this and other issues in your case, please contact Scott V. Hahn at Slowiaczek Albers & Whelan PC, LLO to schedule your initial consultation.

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