I've done some searches around the interwebs and haven't seen a whole lot of 'what to expect' for divorcees and court. So I'm going to do my brave best to share how mine went in a generalized fashion. Hopefully, you find some of it useful and can walk into your hearing feeling more prepared than I did.
Before you go anywhere, a good attorney should prep you. I've gone through 3 attorneys and only one actually prepped me. The first attorney I had was a good attorney, but I had to ask him questions to get any sense of what I was about to walk into. My second attorney, a woman, was a complete mess in the courtroom. Got incredibly nervous and gave me NO feeling of comfort. My third attorney, a 20 yr veteran and former prosecutor, was incredibly confident and prepped me at a restaurant BEFORE I ever stepped foot in the courtroom. (here are some key tips for finding the right attorney).
If you've seen any courtroom drama, you will go in expecting a lot of different things. Wall to wall hardwood. Tables and chairs that have a certain grandness and presence. Yeah. no. I walked into a room that hadn't been redecorated since the early 80s. Carpet on the walls, people. It was sad really.
The first time, we weren't even allowed in the courtroom until the judge was ready for us. So 20 people stood around in the tiny outer foyer with only about 5 metal chairs for seats. Before we could go into the courtroom, we were informed that we couldn't bring purses or any bags. You were allowed paperwork to be carried in hand. Only lawyers were allowed to bring in their law briefcases. No electronics allowed. So leave your Netbooks at home, ladies. Cell phones were required to be OFF. And they got riled big time if they found you texting.
All hearings were pretty much the same. You walked into the courtroom after going through a metal detector. Think airport. Belts, shoes, empty pockets, and coats off.
The courtroom itself was very basic. Most courtrooms you have seen on TV will give you a general idea of the layout, but as I said...very not impressive. The courtroom I was in the first time had a jury box on the left side and tables for the court officers on the right.
All the people that had come for a hearing sat in the audience section until the clerk of the court called their case. The lawyers sat in chairs on the inside of the divider bar closer to the judge. Most of the attorneys were representing more than one case so they had multiple sets of clients.
It felt extremely rushed on some cases and extremely slow on others. Everyone sat there awkwardly who wasn't a lawyer or a court officer. All the court officers and lawyers joked around and chatted in between cases. It was an extremely strange dichotomy but one that I slowly got used to the more often I had to attend.
This was in California, so I feel confident in saying that it might be the way all hearings in other states are, or it could just be the way hearings are in over-worked courts.
When my case was called, I was told I could sit next to my attorney at our table inside the bar. My ex sat with his attorney at the other table. I did not get sworn in unless I actually had to talk to the court or give testimony. When I was sworn in, I had to stand up, facing the clerk and do the "I do solemnly swear..." with my right hand up. Address the judge as "your honor" and only talk to him unless you are in the witness box. That didn't happen to me, but Brand had to give evidence in the custody hearing after the false allegations of abuse were leveled.
When answering the judge, take a deep breath and count to three before answering.
If an opposing attorney asks a questions, make sure you give no more information than is requested. For example, if they ask you the weather, say "it's cold." Let them ask you if the sun is shining. If they do, say "yes'. Make them make you talk. It's amazing how much trouble I kept myself out of by doing that simple little thing.
The entire hearing process was mostly between the attorneys and the judge. In fact they LOVE doing in-chambers meetings. The attorneys and the judge went into the chambers behind the judge's bench and disappeared in there for friggin ever. I heard talking and laughing and talking and then raised voices. And then they came out. I still don't know what was said back there. What I do know is they came out with an agreement for that particular hearing and items for the next. And the judge signed off on it. And that was it.
We were told our case was scheduled for a new hearing on such and such date about such and such issue and to be there by 9 am. At the beginning of the morning everyone who was to appear before the judge got roll called. Those that weren't there had to have an explanation [or have contacted the court] or had to have a lawyer appearing on their behalf. So I spent all day for something I had almost no actual interaction in.
It is an experience that is very much hurry up and wait. Do not be surprised if you walk out feeling deflated and confused. Expect to be debriefed by your attorney because in most cases you may have no idea what the heck just happened.
Depending on your particular case, you may have multiple hearings. Expect to have to see or even sit next to your STBX and his NEXT. I did. It was awkward to say the least. Especially for the abuse allegation hearings. Remember to interact as little as possible and to maintain your composure. Keep your chin up, you'll do fine.