Our top tips on getting ready for a day in court.
Our top tips on getting ready for a day in court.
· Read everything on this site. Twice.
· If you haven’t already done it, compile a Chronology of everything: every incident, conversation, phone call, email, contact visit, court appearance.
· Acquaint yourself with all the legislation and case law relevant to your case.
· If you are using a McKenzie, let the Court know in advance of your attendance; do this a couple of days in advance by fax and always take a copy with you.
· Make sure you know where you are going; don’t go to the Crown or County Court if your hearing is in the Magistrates’ Court; don’t rely on your taxi driver to know the difference. Work out in advance which bus, train or tube you need to take.
· Don’t make any other plans for later in the day; you may well be seen late and could be in discussions for hours. You may have been called for ten-thirty but so has everyone else – you might not be seen until much later in the day.
· Make sure to arrange with someone else to collect your children from school, and fill the parking meter for the whole day. Take money to buy food and drink and take a good book.
· Courts can be hot and stuffy; take some bottled water with you and keep drinking fluids, you don’t need a headache on top of everything else. Courts can also be very cold.
· Take an umbrella – you don’t want to arrive sopping wet – and make sure your documents are in a waterproof case.
· Take a pad of blank paper and several pens – you or your McKenzie will need to take notes; you can also pass notes to your solicitor if he is doing the talking.
· Take your bundle, and if you bring any documents the other side has not yet seen take three copies. Make sure the order with your case number on it and time of the hearing is in the bundle.
· Take any books of guidance you may be relying on so you can look things up.
· All of this can add up to a lot of stuff; you may need to buy a large wheeled suitcase to carry it all around in.
· Make sure you are wearing a suit or smart clothes – no jeans, hoodies, trainers, bling etc., and make sure your clothes are ironed and your shoes polished. Check your clothes fit a few days before court; don’t wear new shoes or anything likely to be uncomfortable. Hide any tattoos, and remove any visible facial piercings.
· In many ways it doesn’t really matter how you dress and wearing a suit won’t necessarily help you any more than wearing jeans and a tee-shirt but it shows respect to the Court and to others and will make you feel more business-like. Dress for success. Make sure that whatever you wear is comfortable; you don’t want to be self-conscious about sweat stains because you are too hot or nervous.
· Particularly in financial proceedings, avoid expensive suits, jewellery, watches, etc. If you are a woman, do not have your hair done prior to court.
· Bring your McKenzie but do not bring the whole family and all your friends; it will be presented to the judge as an attempt to intimidate. Never take your children unless instructed to by the Court.
· Turn up on time; you should get to court at least an hour before the hearing is listed to give yourself a chance to talk things over with your solicitor or McKenzie Friend and to CAFCASS, if they attend. Allow for delays, traffic jams, problems with parking, cancelled trains, etc. If you are going to be late let everyone know.
· When you first arrive at court you will pass through a metal detector and be searched by security. So take only what you need and make sure you don’t have any ‘weapons’ (such as pen-knives, multi-tools, bottles of perfume) on you or a camera (other than your phone).
· Report to the usher, who will usually be at a reception desk or walking about with a clipboard, and sign in. If you don’t sign in you may not be called. Tell them who you are, whether you are the applicant or respondent and whether you will be having a solicitor or McKenzie Friend with you. Find out which courtroom your case is being held in, what time and the name of the judge; there will be a list up with all of that day’s hearings. You need to know your case number because the parties’ names may not be on the list.
· If you need the lavatory go when you arrive – you may have a very long wait for your hearing.
· If you arrive early, use that time profitably. Discuss your plan of action with your solicitor or McKenzie.
· If the other team arrives early, get your solicitor or McKenzie to negotiate with them. There is no harm in talking to the other side’s representatives, they should treat you with respect. They may well come over to speak to you. You can usually find a room somewhere to conduct these discussions, or you may have to settle for a seat, even the cafeteria. Don’t go too far away or you won’t hear when you are called to the courtroom.
· Don’t approach the other party directly, either outside the court building or in the waiting area, you could find yourself accused of intimidation or harassment.
· Sometimes the other side will have brought new documents which you need to read and consider. Don’t be intimidated – you need time to do this, so it is reasonable, if absolutely necessary, to ask the usher to delay the hearing.
· If you can come to an agreement outside the courtroom (even if it is only on the points at issue) it will provide you with something to present to the judge and will make the decision-making process faster and easier. If you can agree – say – a schedule of contact, you can have it made up into a Consent Order when you get into the courtroom and save a great deal of time, money and further hearings. If you do come to an agreement, tell the usher.