Going to court is hard on the nerves on its own, and it can seem worse when you’re going for a hearing for your divorce or child custody case because the stakes are so high. As with anything else in life that makes you anxious, learning more about family court in New Mexico and feeling better prepared can work wonders for your feelings of nervousness over your court date.
What to wear
Whether you’re a man or a woman, you want to “dress to impress,” just like you would for an important event or job interview. Men should wear suits or at least dress pants, a button-down shirt and dress shoes. Women can opt for a suit, nice dress or a conservative blouse or sweater paired with a nice skirt or dress pants. How you dress signals to the judge your level of respect for his or her courtroom, and you want to give the right impression.
Coming to the courthouse
You have no way of knowing whether a delay like traffic or bad weather will happen, so your best bet is to get there early. Confirm where you will meet with your attorney before you go so you know exactly where you’re going first once you are inside. Courthouses have metal detector-type security measures, so go easy on the metal and be prepared to empty your pockets and take your belt off. You will not be able to bring your cell phone or any other recording device into the building, so leave that in your car. Bring pen and paper if you want to take notes.
Skip bringing gum and drinks like coffee with you to court. If you have minor children, you’ll need to arrange for a sitter. Your children won’t be allowed into the court, and there will be no one available to watch them during your hearing. Moreover, if the judge views you bringing your children to court as a way to make the other parent look bad, it will not help your case.
In some New Mexico courthouses, both parties need to “sign in” when they arrive so the court knows when all parties are present. If you’re not sure where the sign-in is, ask a court employee or your attorney.
In the courtroom
The courtrooms tend to have a similar layout. The judge’s area, or bench, is facing you at the back of the room, and there’s a place for people who are testifying near it. In the middle of the room, there are chairs and tables for both parties and their lawyers. In the back of the room, there are benches for people who are watching the proceedings, such as family members for support, if they are allowed inside your hearing.
No matter where you are in the courtroom, the judge will pay attention to your body language and reactions. It is one way to help him or her access credibility, so make sure you sit up straight, pay attention and be respectful of the entire process. This means you’ll want to avoid doing things like rolling your eyes or yelling, no matter how upset you are at things that are said during your hearing. Don’t argue with the judge or yell at your ex-partner or spouse as this will not help and could very well harm your case.
Once your hearing is over, it is okay if you have questions despite paying close attention to what was going on. At this point, ask your lawyer about what happened, what the judge said and any other questions you have about the hearing and what is going to happen next.