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What should I expect when I go to Court?

If you have a Court date looming as part of your Divorce or Children application, then it can seem to be a daunting prospect. If you are wondering what to wear, how to act or what will happen, we have set out some answers to commonly asked questions to prepare you for your Court Hearing.

What should I wear?

Avoid being overly smart or too casual in your appearance. Suits are unnecessary but equally, jeans and trainers should be avoided. For men, trousers with a shirt and jacket is sufficient and for women, smart trousers or skirt with a smart top or a dress. Do not feel as though you have to dress up to impress the Judge or equally, it is not advisable to underdress, so as to demonstrate to the Court the dire nature of your financial situation!

What should I take?

You will be asked lots of questions and hear lots of facts and figures whilst you are outside Court and in the Courtroom. It is sensible to take a notepad and pen with you. It is also helpful to take some sticky notes so that if you wish to raise any points during the Hearing, you can pass those notes to your Solicitor or Barrister.

Courts do not generally offer a vast selection of refreshments and a day in Court can be long and tiring. It is sensible to take some snacks and water with you to keep your strength up if there is no time to leave the building for a short break.

If you are taking an I-pad or laptop/phone, then remember to take a charger with you so that you do not run out of battery at a crucial point when you are searching for a relevant document.

Take a list of any points you wish to discuss with your Solicitor or Barrister or any thoughts which occur to you in the middle of the night before the Hearing!

Who can come with me?

You can take a member of your family or friend with you for support. They will not always be allowed to sit in on your conferences and they will not be privy to your personal paperwork. They will also be unable to attend the actual Court Hearing. In the event that you have a new partner, their presence can cause acrimony and prevent a settlement being achieved and for that reason, it is preferable if they do not attend with you.

What is the format of the day?

When you arrive at Court, you will normally pass through security and you will then need to find the waiting room for the Family Court. You should locate the Usher and sign in with them. Your Solicitor or Barrister will then normally locate you and take you to a conference room.

If you are attending Court for a Directions Hearing or for an FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) Hearing, then much of your day will be spent in the conference room, whilst your Barrister liaises with his or her counterpart and seeks to make some progress on your behalf. Those discussions will take place away from your earshot and your Barrister will report back to you with instructions and an update as to any progress.

At some stage, you will be called into Court and either your respective Barristers will have agreed what should happen, or they will ask the Judge to make an Order or provide an indication.

Once you have spent your time with the Court, this either results in an Order being made or if you are attending an FDR Hearing, then you may spend further periods of time outside of Court seeking to negotiate a settlement.

Will I have to speak to the Judge?

If you have a Solicitor or Barrister representing you, you should not have to speak to the Judge. Occasionally, the Judge will ask a direct question relating to a factual matter and if you do need to address the Judge, then a District or Deputy District Judge should be referred to as Sir or Ma’am.

What else should I remember?

It is important to familiarise yourself with the Court before the day of the Hearing. You should look up any car parks/ train stations and make sure that you arrive in plenty of time. 
You should also prepare yourself fully for the purpose of the Hearing and read through the documents your Solicitor should have sent through to you in advance. If you have any questions after the Hearing, then you should email them to your Solicitor whilst they are fresh on your mind.

Finally, the Hearing is about you and your case and you should not agree to anything which you do not feel comfortable with or which you do not understand.