Attending court can be a very anxious and nerve-wracking thing to do. We have produced some insights and tips below to give you a better understanding of how the court works, what to expect and the dos and don’ts of court.
First impressions are really important when attending at court for anything, especially for your case. Sheriffs will be watching you and judging you on how credible or otherwise they believe you to be.
It is important to dress appropriately for court. Court dress has varied over the years and become more relaxed with practitioners also becoming more adventurous in what they wear to court. However, it is important not to lose sight of the rules and expectations when attending court.
The court’s guidance is ‘Dress in a manner which suits the serious nature of the business being conducted in court’. It is important to remember that first impressions matter and when attending a court hearing either by Webex or in-person court hearing present yourself well by wearing smart clothes and having a neat appearance.
Whilst the court often does not run on time, for whatever reason, it is important to ensure that you arrive at your court hearing ( in person) or login to your court hearing ( by Webex) with time to spare. This is particularly important for unplanned delays such as parking etc. When signing into an electronic court important that you ensure you have no issues with your technology and that you are comfortable with the system and know how to login into the Webex before the court hearing commences. If you do have issues with this then raise this with your solicitor or the Sheriff Clerk if representing yourself before a hearing commencing.
If you are coming to an in-person hearing it is often helpful to arrive earlier to allow your solicitor and the other solicitor to carry out at the door of the court negotiations’. Whilst it is not always the case that resolution can be made in advance of court hearings it is always helpful and well looked upon if parties can make attempts to try and resolve some or all of the matters in dispute, both to try and make the hearing less contentious for all parties involved and to allow the sheriff to focus on the matters in dispute but also to reduce court time.
If you are appearing in person ensure you turn your mobile phone off. The last thing you want is to be disturbed during a court hearing. If you are appearing on an electronic hearing ensure you are muted and your camera is not on until such time that your case is called. Also, ensure your phone is muted and any other social media or other sites are muted or minimised to avoid you being distracted or disturbed during the hearing.
If you are joining the hearing by electronic means then make sure you do so where no one else is present and make sure you conduct the hearing in a private place and ensure you will not be disturbed.
If you are appearing in person it is always helpful to come prepared with a notepad. This is both in case you need to ask your solicitor any questions and also to appear contentious and to take notes of things that are important.
If your hearing is going to be taking place online make sure you agree on a way to communicate with your solicitor if necessary during the hearing.
Do not record the hearings as these are private hearings. If you want to ensure everything is covered then take notes and this can be discussed with your solicitor after the hearing.
When appearing on screen in person make sure you are aware that you are being watched and judged by the Sheriff and the other side and their solicitor. Be conscious of your facial expressions. Do not interrupt the Sheriff or your solicitor and in most cases, you will not be asked to speak unless directed to do so.
It is important to be in control of your emotions, especially in emotive cases. Understand that you may not agree with events that are being discussed, the other person’s side or argument or the decision of the Sheriff. It is the job of the other side’s solicitor to relay their client’s points/ versions of events. It is helpful if you can understand that this is part of the process and expect that you are likely to disagree with what is being said or how events are being relayed.
Remain calm and level headed when appearing on the screen in person. If you don’t agree with something or think something is not right then note this down on your notepad or notes on screen to allow you to either clarify when being asked to do so or discuss it with your solicitor following the hearing.
The court process is often long and matters are not resolved overnight. It is important to understand that whilst a timetable is produced with dates, in most family actions such dates are very rarely followed. This is because the court cannot prepare for unplanned events or issues that arise when trying to navigate a separation or issues with child residence and contact. Patience is key when raising a court action and progression may be taken in baby steps. The court is beneficial in addressing imbalances in power in relationships but also in supporting both parents and children in contact progressing and more specifically in obtaining and listening to children’s views (often parents separating can lose sight of children and their views).
Court action can both heal and put a strain on relationships and anyone considering court action must discuss all of the risks and benefits with a solicitor before undertaking the same. Remember court is not often viewed as a comfortable or enjoyable experience for anyone involved. Sheriffs are human, they make good and bad decisions. Decisions made specifically in family actions are not always final and throughout litigation, a lot can change.
Court action should not be taken lightly and one should be prepared to know that nothing is guaranteed with any court action.
Involving the court means that third parties make decisions on your life, the other side’s life and decisions concerning your children. When entering a court action you have to be comfortable with the prospect of relinquishing control over your situation to a third party.
If you are comfortable with all of these risks and no progress is being made through negotiations then court action should be progressed and without delay. We as a firm pride ourselves in assessing the situation, advising our clients on risks and allowing them to make an informed decision and if necessary raising court action and seeing results without delay!
If you have a family law issue then do not hesitate to contact our friendly and experienced Family Law Department via the online contact form.
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