Insider’s Court Presentation Guide in Divorce and Family Law Cases
Going to court can be intimidating and the more you know the more comfortable you will become in this setting. Understanding a few basic courtroom presentation tricks that most seasoned attorney’s know and abide by can be critical in your case. First, all courtrooms and judges may have a slightly different procedure, process, and preferences. It is always recommend that you respectfully ask about the judge’s preferences. This can be as basic as asking if there is a preference in presenting and uploading court exhibits, making objections, and/or tabbing or labeling of exhibits.
- Determine the Proper Court
Before you can get into court, you must determine the proper jurisdiction for your case. There are rules as to which court can hear what type of case. There are two areas, both in the district court, that will hear and determine family law matters. Family law cases will be heard in the juvenile division if the issue concerns: an adoptions, dependency and neglect proceedings, and some child support actions. Cases such as: divorce, allocation of parental responsibility (custody issues), and post-decree actions (things that happen after a divorce is final) are heard in the domestic relations division of the district court. Below is a guide to Court procedure and actions.
Colorado is divided into 22 judicial districts. The proper court or jurisdiction for your case will depend on what county you, your child, or the other parent live in and/or where property is located. For a complete list of Judicial Districts in Colorado you can click Colorado Judicial Districts.
Generally, for a divorce action you will file in the county where the other spouse lives. For example, if you live in the county of Jefferson and your spouse has moved to the county of Adams, the proper county would be the District Court for the county of Adams. For an Allocation of Parental Responsibility (determine custody) case, the proper court would be the county in which the child lives. There are exceptions to the general rule stated above and this question can get more complicated if the parties live in different states.
Out of State Considerations: If one of parent lives out of state the question of which state has jurisdiction to hear the case depending on several factors. Some factors regarding child custody or child support issues are what state the child lives in and for how long the child had resided in the state, if there was a previous custody or child support case in another state, and the ability of the home state to have jurisdiction over the non-resident parent. There are different factors that would govern what state has jurisdiction in a divorce action. Some factors would include where each person lives and location of martial assets and property. If your situation is more complicated, you may need to contact a family law attorney to determine where you case should be filed and litigated.
- Determine Any Local Court Rules
Most courts in Colorado have local filing rules and/or have procedures in how to ask the judge to make certain orders and decisions. For example, in a divorce case, most judges want the parties to go through mediation first prior to setting the case for a Permanent Orders Hearing. Courts may have varied procedures for presenting evidence, submitting motions, and requesting information. It is best to ask your judge, rather than to guess wrong.
- Ensure that All Court Orders and Directions are Followed
Once your case is filed with the court, you will get additional dates and deadlines that must be followed. Depending on the type of case you have will determine what you have to do. You would get this information in the Case Management Order. It is always recommended that you highlight and calendar the deadlines in the CMO so that you do not accidentally forgot a date or deadline. For example, if you have a divorce or child support case, both parties will be required to provide all financial documents to the other side, this includes taxes, business statements, bank statements, and any other verification of income and assets. These documents do not go to the court but you must provide the court with a certificate of compliance that promises that you provided the other side with all necessary disclosures.
- Prepare for All Hearings Set By the Court
The Judge will not have allocated you a lot of time to hear your side of the story. You want to be prepared to tell the judge very quickly what the issue the judge needs to decide and why the judge should rule in your favor. When presenting your side of the story to the judge, we recommend sticking to the facts and try to avoid name-calling to the other party. Always talk to the judge and avoid directly talking to the other person. The exception to this would be if and when you would be giving testimony, then you may have to answer questions asked by the other side.
- Demeanor in Court
When you are in court, the way you act will have an impression on the judge and could ultimately factor into the judge’s decision. The judge will have to decide if he/she believes you or the other party. We recommend dressing in a nice business casual attire or suit. Your tone is also important, we recommend that you keep a respectful tone and keep directing the court to the facts at issue.
We hope that this information was helpful to you. Family law cases involve issues that hit people on emotional and financial levels. For help with your case, please feel free to contact us directly at (303) 747-4686 or simply click HERE.