Thomas Ferreira here, your Carlsbad divorce mediator and lawyer. Today’s blog is the first in a five-part series I have titled Five Things You Absolutely Must Do When Appearing in Court.
This series assumes that you have already filed and served your responsive declarations or your request for order—that you’ve done the written paperwork and presented all the documentary evidence that you need to present.
Your task now is to persuade the judge once you’re in court. There are certain “do’s and don’ts,” a certain secret sauce, and when you see attorneys doing this you can tell that they’re being effective.
But it’s like anything else—you can do it and do it well, and I’m going to teach you how to do that.
PREPARING BEFORE THE HEARING:
You want to prepare for the hearing in advance so that you know what you’re going to say. Read through your declarations and your evidence. Look at the photos and other items that you are offering to the court. Tease out those facts that support the result you want.
MAKE PROACTIVE STATEMENTS.
Work backward from the result you want to the facts that support that result. And be proactive in your arguments.
Being proactive means that you ask for what you want and you don’t react to what the other side is doing. They’re going to ask for what they want. Don’t worry about them.
Write down the three major points you want to make. For example:
1. I want more time with our children in the parenting plan.
2. I want to reduce my support payment.
3. I want to have unsupervised visits with the children.
Next, set out the child-focused facts that support these positions. It’s okay to write out your your remarks in advance if you’re nervous.
The opposite of being proactive is focusing on the other party’s arguments, things like “she constantly withholds the children from me,” or “he says bad things to me in text messages, and etc.
Or, the simple phrase of “gal darnit, it’s just not fair.” As an aside, “it’s not fair” is almost never a good argument in family court.
A better way to approach that is to make your arguments through the eyes of the child. Something like this:
Your honor, this child has a warm, tight relationship with me and it’s clear that he misses me. And it’s really important to him as he getws older that this child have a father in his life
Now I know that this court has ordered supervised visits. What I’m asking this court to do is to remove that supervision because it taints the interaction that I have with the child and makes everything more difficult.
And, your honor, I have done my anger management class, I have entered a 12-step program. I have done (fill in the blank) that the court wants me to do.
I’ve been doing this supervised visit for three months and I believe it’s time to have unsupervised visits with our kids.
That’s a more persuasive argument than “mom is withholding them,” and she’s manipulative, and she’s always nasty in text messages and the like.
Make your arguments in a positive way and this will be more persuasive to the court.
The court wants to see that you “get it,” which means that you see the case the way the court sees it, that is, through the eyes of the child, and through the problems that court is trying to solve, such as support.
Next time I’m going to talk about how to be proactive rather than reactive when you are speaking in front of the judge.