8 Things to Leave at Home When You Go to Family Court

Posted by: Shel Harrington 15 August, 2013 24 Comments

Appearing in Family Court can be a nerve-wracking experience. Our focusWhat not to take to Family Court is on what we want to tell the judge, what others might say, and how things will turn out. It’s easy to forget details that can matter – like showing up with things that won’t help your case. Following is a list of 8 Things you should leave at home when you go to Family Court.

1. Your children. Not alone, obviously – unless you want to make it really easy for the judge to decide who gets custody. Most judges will not allow children in the courtroom – and not just because of the distraction. No child needs to hear the details of the parents’ conflict. (This holds true in and out of court.)

2. Your nosering. It’s hard for the judge to see the sincerity in your eyes when she’s staring at your nose.

3. Your attitude collection. This includes, but is not limited to: smart-ass, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, know-it-all, and negative. The exception to this rule is if you have a positive one. Dust it off, if necessary, and bring it with you.

4. Anything that jangles/clacks/squeaks. We’re talking noise-making distractions here. Things like multiple chain necklaces, pockets full of coins, squeaky shoes, unsecured dentures.

5. Anything that will get you stopped by security. Guns, knives, other weapons, and alcohol are all things that you won’t be allowed to pass through security with. If you attempt to do so, you will probably end up having to make a choice between giving it up or being late for court because you have to take the item back to your car – which is sure to make a wonderful first impression on the judge!

6. Your cell phone. Okay – we both know that’s not happening. You probably won’t even agree to leave it in the car to avoid temptation. At least leave it off when in the courtroom. Not low, not vibrate – off. No good will come from the unexpected tones of your phone spewing out the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly while the judge is talking.

7. Your cleavage. I know I mentioned in a previous post that this was a way to impress the judge, but you knew I was kidding, right? You don’t really have to leave it home, just cover it up. Remember that even a ‘bit of cleavage’ can be dramatically magnified by sitting down or having someone looking down at you (say, from the judge’s bench). Keep everyone in the courtroom focused on your expressive face and compelling testimony by wearing clothes that don’t distract.

8. Your cheerleading squad. One or two friends or family members for moral support can be a good thing. Filling the courtroom with a mob that glare at the opposition and high-five as you head up to the witness stand will not serve you well. Negative behavior from your courtroom guests will reflect on you.

Now that you are basically stripped down to a turtleneck and a positive attitude, you’re probably wondering if there is anything you should take to Family Court. Check back on Saturday for the short list.

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24 Comments

  • Steven Kerr

    Your parents. Especially if you have a girlfriend/boyfriend on the side or if you have left obscenity-laced text messages for you (ex) spouse. Your parents don’t deserve this. They also have a tendency to make noises of disgust or disagreement in the courtroom. None of that is helpful.

    • Shel Harrington

      Good points – I hadn’t thought about the effect on the parents. Thanks for chiming in, Steve – I’m tickled to see you here!

  • shaundre

    I love this post here along with the others but this one definitely gets my attention great advice! B-)

  • Oh, man, Shel, this is great. And I can’t help but think what other situations might be improved–i.e. a parent-teacher conference–by leaving behind many of these items.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Dee Dee. I bet you have a much longer list for parent/teacher meetings – you could probably double the ‘attitude collection’ category!

  • Jerry magill

    Don’t take the new boyfriend / girlfriend! I saw this happen several years ago in Oklahoma County and it resulted in a courthouse stabbing. Afterwards, one of my prehearing rules with clients was to leave the new significant other at home. Nice blog, Shel!

    • Shel Harrington

      You’re right – that can be a dangerous dynamic. Wasn’t that the case that got Oklahoma County serious about getting security installed in the courthouse? Thanks for checking in, Jerry – I hope to catch up with you soon!

  • Your list of things not to bring to court is valuable, but your presentation of the list is priceless, Shel! “Filling the courtroom with a mob that glare at the opposition and high-five as you head up to the witness stand will not serve you well.” Hilarious! I’ve only been called to jury duty once and I left all of the items you listed at home. Number 7 was real easy, since I don’t own any. 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      I am often surprised about what can be manufactured with creative (court-inappropriate!) undergarments – and surprised that anyone thinks this look will do anything to enhance their credibility! And because it’s Friday, I’ll steal your closing line and say: “Have a great weekend, Jill!”

  • Lee Fisher

    KUDOS for stating the obvious. However when people get to court the obvious escapes them when emotions run high.

    • Shel Harrington

      I’m delighted to hear from you, Lee! I think what is sometimes obvious for attorneys (because we’re in the court environment so much) is not obvious for those who aren’t as familiar with that venue. People get accustomed to their face jewelry being the norm and often think the more supporters they have in court the better the chance of ‘winning.’I’m also surprised at how many parents think having their child present will enable their child to know the ‘truth’ about what is going on. No kid needs that much truth!

  • Probably not a good idea to bring those illegally obtained audios of other people’s conversations. Especially when a parent has wrongfully recorded their kid talking to the other parent. Whoops! Is that a felony, you say? 😉

  • Kellie Howell

    I addition to covering up cleavage, cover up that flaming skull tattoo as well. (or any other tattoo that may be interpreted as offensive.)

    • Shel Harrington

      Good point – not only are they distracting, but sometimes judges can be . . . well, judgmentalabout such things!

  • Jeanna Whitten

    Love this…

    If you go before my judge, you better bring a big dose of respect, not only for him but the process. So many people either do not know or do not have any respect for anything or anybody. I assume that’s why they are there in the first place.

    Also, the courtroom is no place for gum.

    • Shel Harrington

      Great point, Jeanna! I have a list put together of what to bring to Family Court that I’m posting later today and clearly I’ll have to make an addition to it! Thanks for the insight.

  • Gina Kishur

    Regarding #5 and the alcohol–not only should you not bring it to court, but it’s a good idea to not put it into your body for about 48 hours prior to court. Going to court drunk or stinky with a hangover makes a great story for opposing counsel, but doesn’t seem to sit will with judges. Regarding the cleavage, could we pass that advice around to attorneys too? Great blog Shel.

    • Shel Harrington

      Good point about the alcohol smell. And it doesn’t help when they say: “Oh – that was from yesterday.” Really? You had so much yesterday I can smell it through your skin today? Not good! With regard to attorney wear – more than once I have been surprised (based on how they were dressed) to find out who was the client and who was the attorney in a given pair. Also not good!

  • This was a quite entertaining post, for it being a serious topic! I’m enjoying reading your blog! It also made me think, most of these points could be applied to teachers and professors too – the jewellery, the mobile phone, the cleavage and the nose ring…yep, seen it happen. It’s all so distracting.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Vivienne – I’m enjoying your blog, too! I had to do a quick mental check to see if I committed any of those transgressions when teaching. The only one was having my cell phone go off – minutes after I announced to the glass that theirs needed to be off – nice comedic timing!

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