9 Mistakes That Will End Up Costing You In Divorce Court
Take it from divorce attorneys and don’t make any of these common mistakes that almost always end up costing people who decide to litigate.
1. Going to court without a lawyer.
“This is the No. 1 mistake. Yes, you might do fine, but lawyers ― good lawyers who are in court often ― will know the procedures, the etiquette, the judge’s likes and dislikes and many other things that can be invaluable. You often only have one chance at a good result. Hedge your bets, improve your odds, get a good lawyer. Or at least consult with a lawyer ahead of time to better understand the process.” ― Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney in Atlanta, Georgia
2. Not being prepared with your paperwork.
“If the judge asks you a question and you don’t have a good answer, there’s a very good chance they won’t be pleased. For example, if you show up to court for a hearing where you are seeking a reduction in financial support, you better have documentation ready to prove your income and debts. If the judge asks for something and you don’t have it, that won’t help your case.” ― Jason Levoy, an attorney and divorce coach in New York City
3. Not meeting with or talking to your lawyer about the trial ahead of time.
“Trial is unknown territory for most people and learning what to expect is crucial. Practice, practice, practice. And if possible, go watch another case ahead of time to see and feel the courtroom environment.” ― Kessler
4. Dressing inappropriately.
“Like it or not, appearances count. If you walk into court looking like a hot mess, you’re going to have a harder time convincing a judge that you should have 50/50 parenting time and joint custody of your kids. Yes, I know that doesn’t seem fair. Sorry, but judges are human, too. And if you walk into court wearing expensive clothing and jewelry, good luck convincing the court that you don’t have enough money to pay your child support.” ― Karen Covy, a divorce attorney and coach in Chicago
5. Making unreasonable demands.
“Don’t overreach. Many people think that in order to get $500 per month, they need to ask for $1,000 per month. But this may well come off as greedy and overreaching. Make a reasonable proposal. The judge is looking for a reasonable solution.” ― Kessler
6. Not turning off your cell phone before you walk into court.
“Judges are busy. They have a lot of cases to cover, and they don’t appreciate being interrupted. Anything that beeps, buzzes or rings in a courtroom will draw the judge’s attention to you in a way you definitely are not going to want. Even using your cell phone in court is considered disrespectful. So, when you walk into the courtroom, leave your cell phone in your pocket.” ― Covy
7. Interrupting the judge.
“This is a big no-no. Tape your mouth shut if you have to, but interrupting a judge while they are speaking will get you nowhere fast. I always tell people to write their thoughts on paper so you don’t forget, but wait for your turn to speak. You will get it. Nothing pisses off a judge more than a litigant who interrupts them.” ― Levoy
8. Giving the court clerk and other courtroom personnel attitude.
“The judge may be the one who makes decisions in your case, but the judge’s clerk is the one who makes sure the courtroom is running the way the judge wants. If you piss off the clerk, you will also anger the judge. (Plus, the clerk will probably make sure your case gets called dead last that day.)” ― Covy
9. Being angry.
“Judges do not like angry people, even if the anger is justified. Be polite, sweet and endearing. The judge is a person who will be deciding how to help you through this mess and it is much better if the judge likes you. Even if you are 100 percent in the right, present your situation politely ― it makes a difference.” ― Kessler
Quotes were edited and condensed for clarity.