Knowing the Courtroom and Who Will Be There Before You Go
Who Will You Find in the Courtroom?
Marriage is a legal and binding contract. A divorce is the dissolution of the legal marriage contract. Often the divorce finale takes place in a courtroom and heard in the front of a judge. The judge listens to what each party has to say and, if needed, will interject statements and/or rulings should the parties need assistance in any part of their divorce. All of this seems easy enough, doesn’t it? It is simple in theory and complex in practice.
The courtroom can be an imposing place. There is the judge’s bench always situated on a higher platform from the rest of the seating areas in the courtroom. Not only is the judge’s platform higher, but it is also placed strategically in the front of the room. The minute you walk into the courtroom you know exactly where the judge sits and that is directly in front of you.
Below the Judge’s Bench
The area directly below the judge’s platform have seating areas for court officials such as the bailiff, clerks, and stenographer. Who are these individuals anyway? The bailiff is the individual who will help the judge maintain decorum in the courtroom. If an individual becomes unruly, it is the help of the bailiff to have them removed. The bailiff can be described as the judge’s righthand person. Any time a document needs to be handed to the judge or vice versa, it is done by the bailiff. Nothing is given directly to the judge by either their plaintiff, defendant, counsel unless the judge allows it.
The clerk is the person who gives the judge everything she/he needs in order to understand the case. Sometimes the judge will familiarize the case before the step up to their bench. There are judges that see the case, for the first time, the moment they open the folder which typically contains the initial filing and any supporting document that was made when the case was filed. The clerk is the person who assures that all the documentation is organized to enable the judge to glance over the contents of the folder and quickly understand the case.
The stenographer is the person who takes the notes during the hearing. In the courts where a recording device is used instead of a stenographer taking notes, the stenographer manages the recording device and is often involved in the transcription of those recordings after the case is heard. The transcripts made be transcribed either in a hard device such as a CD or USB or in typewritten format. The stenographer assures that the hearing can be acquired for future reference as all hearing information becomes a part of court documentation and often for public record.
Beyond the Bar
Beyond this area for the court officials is the place assigned for the litigants and their counsel. This area is usually separated by a railing called the Bar. This is where the litigations are sworn in and testify. In some courtrooms, there are actually separate areas for the litigants to give their testimony. The rest of the courtroom is filled with bench seating. These areas are for witnesses as well as litigants for other cases that are scheduled to be tried on that same day.
The Courtroom Can Be Scary & Imposing
The courtroom can be a scary and imposing place. If you have a divorce hearing on the horizon, take some time to familiarize yourself with the courthouse where your case will be heard. As part of your trip to the courthouse, set aside time to sit inside the courtroom and listen to a few cases so that you can understand the rhythm of a hearing. The cases don’t have to be divorces and you will be fortunate if you get to see one. It doesn’t matter the nature of the case. What you want to take away with you is how the courtroom works and how you can best prepare to navigate through your hearing with more comfort and less fear. Your goal is to move through the hearing with an understanding of the process so that your case moves smoothly. Taking a few hours to familiarize yourself with the room where one of the biggest moments of your life will take place, will be the best few hours you can give to yourself and your case.
Familiarizing Yourself with the Courtroom Will Help Ease Your Anxiety
For more information on court, including how to ready yourself, check out my Guidebook: Courts, Evidence & Social Media