Going to court for any reason can be intimidating. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you should have the support you need, but we know that doesn't necessarily make it any easier.
Here are some frequently asked questions about Court Etiquette you should consider beforehand:
1. "What Should I Wear to Court?"This is a question that we get a lot. If you plan to testify at your hearing, we are sure that this has crossed your mind. You want to portray the best image possible to the Court. With this in mind, some people get some anxiety over wearing the appropriate attire to Court. In general, most Court have the same dress code. Typically, you are NOT allowed to wear the following to Court:
- Shorts (all types);
- Hats (all types, excluding religious headwear);
- Muscle Shirts and Tank Tops; or
- Any item of clothing that displays offensive, vulgar, racist, sexist, gang-related, obscene language and/or graphics.
Note: In many Texas Courts, Head Coverings and religious garments are permitted during screening. You should be aware that additional screening may be required if headwear or clothing (religious or otherwise) is loose fitting or large enough to hide prohibited items.
2. "Can I Bring My Children With Me to Court?"
Many divorces and all custody cases involve children so we can understand the frequency of this question. The short answer is typically, 'no'. Since there are no child care facilities in the courthouse, most Courts will not allow your children in the courtroom. With this in mind, it is important that your children are in child care or school at the time of your hearing.
The only exception to this is when the Judge has specifically requested to speak with a child in his or her chambers. Then, that child will be allowed to speak with the Judge in the chambers (not the courtroom).
3. "What Should I Expect When I Get to the Courthouse?"
You should expect there to be long lines to go through security. Security checks will be the first step required before being allowed to attend your hearing. In some Texas Courts, you will be required to remove your shoes, place them in a bin and walk bare-footed through the security scanner. Think of going through airport security. It is a similar but milder procedure. With this in mind, we recommend that you wear socks and/or pantyhose if you are squeamish about your feet being on the county's floor.
Note: Before walking through the security scanner you should remove the following for x-ray screening unless specifically told not to: jackets, belts, watches, keys, loose change, laptops, and any other metal that may alarm the security scanner. With this in mind, you should arrive at the Courthouse at least 35 minutes prior to your hearing. However, you should speak with your attorney about what time he or she would prefer that you arrive; our firm makes it a habit to meet with our clients at the courthouse again prior to their hearing so we may ask that the client arrives an hour prior to their hearing instead, depending on the case.
4. "I Have Made it Through Security. Now What?"
Now you should expect long lines at the elevator. This is partly due to the fact that many of the cases at the courthouse in various courts are set to start at the same time. With that in mind, that is a bunch of people that need to be somewhere at the same time. Moreover, due to the frequency that these elevators are used, sometimes an elevator (or elevators) will be "down" (i.e. "out of order"). You'll want to stay diligent in getting on an elevator so that you are on time for your hearing.
5. "How Should I Behave Once I Am Inside of the Courtroom?"
In "real life" courtrooms are not as theatrical as it is portrayed on TV. Instead, the courtroom is a place of order and silence (mostly). When you arrive to the courtroom assigned to your case, you will notice that there are other people in the courtroom. There will likely be other parties for their own cases, attorneys, clerks, a court reporter, bailiffs, and of course the Judge. With that said, most Courts will require absolute silence in the courtroom unless you are in front of the Judge being heard for your case. Additionally, in most Texas courts, this includes speaking with your attorney. You'll be required to briefly step out of the courtroom to conduct this conversation most of the time. This is to maintain the order that we discussed above. Remember, it becomes difficult for the court reporter to adequately transcribe testimony if he or she cannot hear and it creates an equal problem if the Judge cannot hear testimony due to the courtroom chatter.
Next, you should know that you are strictly forbidden from taking pictures or video with your cellular and/or electronic device while in the courtroom. For this reason, we recommend that our clients keep their electronic devices out of view so that it does not even appear as if our client is attempting to violate this rule. Lastly, we'd argue that the most important and universal rule of all Texas courts is that your cell phone must be in silent mode or powered off while in the courtroom. We have witnessed bailiffs both remove people from the courtroom and confiscate the person's phone because the phone sounded while inside of the courtroom. To avoid this issue and embarrassment, we recommend that our clients power off their phones just to be safe. We wouldn't want to risk that reminder that you forgot that you set going off in the middle of someone else's testimony.