Whether or not you have been in court before, a family law hearing is definitely a different experience. Do you know what to expect? What will happen during the hearing? We know that our clients who know what the hearing process is like and what they are going into will feel better about the hearing and feel more confident in general. Contact the family lawyers who can help by calling Law Offices of Jimmy Carter.
The Night Before
Before you go into court, make sure you have everything gathered the night before. We may ask you to bring certain documentation to assist us during the hearing. Keep in mind that confidence will go a long way, so to avoid feeling frazzled in the morning, lay out your clothes the night before. Please choose professional and clean attire. We know that you are going to have quite a bit running through your mind, but do your best to get a full night of sleep. Your clarity and alertness will matter quite a bit in the courtroom.
Court Appearance Day
Be sure to arrive early to the courtroom! Don’t worry, we will let you know what time your case is, what courtroom to go to, as well as where we will meet with you beforehand. There is quite a bit of security at courtrooms, so please keep that in mind as you choose what to bring with you.
The Docket Call
Once the judge arrives, the first thing they will do is run through the list of cases for the day. This is called the docket. Once going through the list, the judge will determine which cases are ready to be heard, decide an order, and then assign the cases to a judge.
When Your Case is Called
Once your case is called, your family lawyer will come with you to the counsel table, and the opposing party and their lawyer will take their places as well. Lawyers will usually sit on the inside chairs, and you and the other represented party will sit on the far end of the tables. First, the lawyers will state “appearances for the record.” This is a list of who is present at the hearing.
As you’ve seen on TV before, you will need to take an oath before we begin. You will be asked to raise your right hand. Then, the clerk will ask you if you “solemnly swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Respond in an audible and clear voice with “I do.”
Next, the judge will have the attorneys provide a brief opening statement of the facts, as well as state the relief that each party has requested. Once all of this is complete, the actual hearing will begin. The Petitioner, or the spouse who originally filed the divorce petition, usually will put their case first by calling any witnesses they may have.
The hearing will begin when the Petitioner’s attorney calls their witnesses to the stand. Sometimes the first witness is the Petitioner, other times it’s the Respondent, and it may occasionally be someone else. Whatever the choice may be, you can trust that this is a strategic choice made by the attorney to help your case. Direct examinations is a questioning from your own attorney to you or to a friendly witness. During this direct examination, your attorney will ask you questions that are designed to help the judge see your point of view. You will have already discussed these questions with your attorney beforehand, so they will not be a surprise. This is your time to share your story through your attorney’s questions, so listen to the questions asked, answer them directly, and do not offer any extra information or elaborate unnecessarily.
Once the direct examination is complete, the other attorney is also allowed to ask questions, or cross-examine, a witness. This is a time for the other attorney to test the credibility of the witness. There are occasions when this cross-examination will show weaknesses in the other party’s case.
Admission of Evidence
If you have any documentation or any other evidence that will assist your case, this is our time to present it to the judge. Once the examinations are complete, the propounding attorney will ask the judge for items to be admitted into evidence. Before the judge receives the exhibit, the other lawyer will be asked if they object to the document or item entering evidence. Of course, there are many grounds for objecting to documents, including relevancy and hearsay.
Responding Party’s Case
After the Petitioner has presented all of their evidence, the attorney will inform the judge that the Petitioner rests. At this time, the other attorney is permitted to present their case and give any evidence that might be necessary or relevant.
Once the responding party is finished and has rested their case, the first party is then given a “rebuttal” option. This means that they will be allowed to contradict the evidence of the other party. Any witness may be called for this, but the most likely witness will be the Petitioner.
Once the testimony stage of your trial is complete, the judge will allow each attorney to make a closing statement, which is a closing argument. They will take this time to summarize the most important parts of the case, let the judge know why their client should win, and refer to statutes and other court decisions that have been made in the past that are relevant to this case. Once the arguments are completed, the judge will either announce the decision right then or will take the matter “under advisement.” If they choose the latter, it means that they will think the case over and release a written decision within the next few weeks.
Contact Law Offices of Jimmy Carter
When it comes to finding a family lawyer you can trust, it’s time to contact Jimmy Carter. We are here to help you as you seek the best possible resolution. With a caring attitude and a determination to help you during this process, we look forward to working with you and your family. Reach out to us today and schedule your consultation. We can go through what you hope your outcome to be and let you know more about the court hearing process.