Making The Most Of Your Day In Court

New Jersey DCP&P Superior Court Procedures

This week, the courtroom antics of Genevieve Sabourin grabbed headlines when the Canadian actress, in a NY court to face charges of stalking actor Alec Baldwin, was given 30 days in jail after a judge held her in contempt of court for repeatedly interrupting proceedings.

Sabourin reportedly unleashed a stream of outbursts – “He’s lying!,” for instance, that landed her the contempt charges. (Update: Sabourin was convicted Friday of stalking charges where she will serve six months in prison, in addition to the one month contempt sentence. )

The lesson for anyone watching this case unfold is simple: when it’s your day in court, Sabourin’s reported behavior is definitely an example of how not to conduct yourself in front of a judge.

Will you be going to court soon in your NJ divorce or family law matter? Here are some tips to put your best foot forward.

Display Respect: In New Jersey, judges are expected to treat all litigants with courtesy, respect, and dignity. You must hold yourself to a similar standard of decency and respect. Showing respect to the court means being polite, and calling the judge “Your Honor” when you speak to him or her, such as “Yes, Your Honor,” or “Your Honor, I brought proof of my income.”

Dress the Part: No matter what you normally wear in your everyday life, when it’s time to appear in court, consider wearing appropriate and conservative clothing. This might means a sports coat, collared shirt, and tie for men, and for women, a conservative dress or business pantsuit. If you can avoid it, don’t wear t-shirts, jeans, shorts, flip flops, or revealing clothing.

Listen to the Judge: Any time the judge is talking, you need to be listening carefully. When asked a question by the judge, answer them simply and to the point. If the judge interrupts you when you are giving an answer or presenting information, stop talking immediately and listen.

Do Not Talk Over One Another: When it’s your spouse’s turn to speak, or a child custody evaluator or other expert is presenting evidence to the judge, no matter how much you want to, refrain from interrupting — interrupting others giving testimony is one surefire to anger a judge. (It was this kind of behavior that landed Sabourin in contempt.)

As difficult as it may be, stop talking if your spouse interrupts you. Let the judge tell your spouse to keep quiet. Whenever you speak in a courtroom, you are speaking to the court on the public record. Therefore, only look at, and speak to, the judge. If possible, it may help to pretend that your spouse is not there.

Above all, try to stay calm, cool and collected. As you prep for court, your attorney is a great resource for the specifics of how you can put your best foot forward.