Divorce Courtroom Etiquette: Cyber Edition

I wrote the article below in pre-Covid times.  Nowadays, most family law court proceedings take place virtually.  Judges have reported their pet peeves about litigants participating while online.

All the tips below still apply but here are a few new ones:

  1.  Test your electronics and the program you will be using to make sure you know how to use the program and connect to it.  Allegheny County mostly uses Microsoft Teams.  Other counties also use Zoom.
  2. Sign on 10-15 minutes early to make sure everything is working well on the day of court.
  3. Make sure you have a strong internet connection.
  4. Dress as you would for court (at least from the waist up!).
  5. Make sure your children are not present or within earshot.
  6. Find a quiet place with good lighting.
  7. Stay still.  Do not walk around your house, drive in your car, etc. while you are before the court.  This can be distracting.
  8. Do not smoke or eat when you are before the court.

Here is my original article:

Although court is often viewed as a last resort, some cases do end up in the courtroom. How you present in court can be just as important as your actual testimony.  In divorce court, issues are often he-said, she said.  First impressions are formed quickly and credibility determinations are of paramount importance.

Here are some suggestions on how to present your best:

1) Appropriate dress

For men, you can never go wrong wearing a suit to court. If you do not have a suit, a shirt and tie will work or a shirt and jacket without a tie. For women, a suit is not necessary. However, a nice blouse with slacks or a skirt is appropriate. For a mother seeking custody, you want to present like a wholesome mom. For men or women, it is never appropriate to wear jeans, hats/caps, soiled clothing, or anything that shows too much skin. The idea is to look respectful.

2) No cell phones

Many judges will hold you in contempt or fine you if they hear your phone or if they see you typing on one. Even a phone set on vibrate can be heard in a quiet courtroom. If you must bring your phone, turn it off or at least put it on silent.

3) Treat the judge with the utmost respect

Address the judge as “your honor” or “judge.” Only speak directly to the judge if they address you first or your attorney directs you to. Never interrupt a judge or yell at a judge.

4) Act respectfully in the courtroom

Sometimes you will be in the courtroom while the judge is handling another case. Do not make any unnecessary noise that could disrupt the other proceeding. Also, if you need to speak to your attorney or another individual, do so softly. Better yet, write a note or step out of the courtroom.

5) Be on time

If you are late, the judge may dismiss your case or hold you in contempt. Plan to arrive early and be sure to allow extra time for parking and to get through security.

Best of luck in court.

If you would like to sit down and talk about your divorce case, here is how to get started.

Leave a Comment