7 great rules for bringing friends to court
It can be painful or upsetting to be sitting on one side of the court waiting room and see a gang of people who don’t like you sitting across the waiting room glaring at you. That’s why the advice to bring some of your own friends can be a good idea. Or maybe not.
Going to court a stressful experience for all of us, at any time. For most people this isn’t anything you’re used to. What’s worse is that the person on the other side of the court file is there too. Sometimes they’re there with friends, sometimes they’re there with a lawyer, and sometimes they’re there with both. And none of those people want to see you get what you want.
Not all good advice should be taken
A piece of advice often given to clients and people acting for themselves is to bring a family member or friend to court so that you’ll have your own “support group” present. That’s good advice, but be careful how you use it.
So long as the person or people you bring are there to help keep you focused and calm, bringing them is a really good idea. But if they can’t control themselves and get into arguments with the other side, or simply sit there and glower at them, or make snide or nasty remarks about them to you, having them there is a terrible idea.
And if your friends think their job is to keep you angry with the other party and all the evil that they’ve done, it’s an even worse idea.
Too often friends think their role is to agree with whatever you say and to support you even if you’re about to make a really bad decision. Often you’ll need to change a position you’ve taken and agree to settle on terms you had previously told everyone you’d never accept. But the circumstances may have changed and now the smartest thing might be to make a compromise you said you’d never make, or accept some term you said you’d never do. Your friends aren’t doing you any favour by making it harder for you to change your mind.
They’re not you. They don’t live the legal fight you have. They‘ll often encourage you to “stick to your guns” or not to give the bitch or bastard on the other side what they’re asking for, even when you realize that this is the smartest thing for you to do. In that case you have to deal with the other party and your friends.
Here are some Rules to make your life easier
In order that the presence of your friends it is a helpful, rather than harmful, experience there are a few simple rules:
- Don’t bring a large gang or posse. Bring one or two people. Never bring more than three. If the other side brings a whole gang, it’s just because they’re insecure.
- Try to bring people who help keep you calm rather than those who get you worked up – even if they’re on your side. You know who these people are. Hurting their feelings by asking them not to come is way better than having them get in the way of you settling something, even though they think they’re trying to help.
- Just as it’s important that you’re dressed properly, it’s equally important that your friends are dressed properly. If they’re coming to court to support you, they need to do what’s necessary to help. Dressing to impress each other isn’t why you want them at court. Looking presentable rather than fashionable shows the judge that they, as well as you, are taking the matter seriously. Looking sloppy or casual, or as if you just came from a workout, or wearing lots of bling or a baseball cap backward shows the judge you don’t take matters seriously. The judge came to court dressed well, and depending on the situation will be wearing judicial robes. The lawyers in court are generally dressed well or will also be wearing robes. This shows that everyone understands the importance of the occasion. You don’t want you and your friends to be the ones looking as though this isn’t a serious and important occasion for you. So be sure they dress appropriately.
- Under no circumstances allow your friends to engage in any kind of negative, angry, or even impolite, conduct with the other party or their friends. Keeping civil in terms of conduct and language is critical.
- You don’t want to have a court officer alert the judge that there’s a fight or argument brewing between your supporters and the other side in the waiting room and maybe security should be called. And you don’t want any of your emotions to be worked up so that you’re not in full control of yourself when you get called into court. If your friends can’t handle themselves appropriately, then ask them to wait for you outside or in the cafeteria.
- Your friends and the other party’s friends will likely know each other and there are times when people in each group will begin talking to each other. That’s okay, so long as everyone is careful it not end up in an argument.
But that can be disconcerting. You’re sitting there concentrating on what’s about to happen and the friend you brought to support you is over there chatting away and having q good time. It can put you off our game.
So I recommend, in these cases that the people remain courteous but hold off going over old times until after the case is over.
- When you’re in the courtroom, make sure that your friends know that they’re to remain still and silent.
- They’re not to show visible upset or hostile body language when something they don’t like it is being said. And they’re not to enthusiastically nod up and down and show positive body language when something they do like is said. Judges watch how your supporters react, and it helps them assess you as a person if they can tell something about the nature of the people you chose to bring to court. Everything your friends do reflects on you.
They also need to be clear not to scowl or glare at the other party or their friends or make any rude facial or hand gestures.
There’s a common thread that runs through each of the rules above – Respect.
You never know who’s watching or who will pass on some remark to the judge. So if you and your friends show respect towards the other side and their friends it’s the same as showing respect to the court system and the judge.
Whatever your personal feelings might be, you won’t help yourself if the judge thinks that you’re showing disrespect to the family court system or if you’re the sort of person who is otherwise disrespectful. If you can keep your friends in line, and if they can remember that their role is to support you, to keep you worked up, then having them with you is a good idea.