The day of the hearing you should:
- Have your witnesses there and ready.
- Be on time.
- Have your evidence ready.
- If you have subpoenaed witnesses or documents and they are not in court, you should inform the judge.
- Dress neatly.
- Speak directly to the judge; he or she will understand if you feel nervous.
- Always address the judge as “Your Honor.”
- Be prepared to spend all day in court. (There may be hearings before yours.) If you have children, try to find someone to take care of them while you are in court.
- If the abuser comes to court with a lawyer and you are not represented, ask the judge for a “continuance” so you can look for a lawyer.
- While you are waiting to be called, it is your right to move seats if the abuser sits next to you, and to receive help from court staff in keeping the abuser away from you. Tell the bailiff or any sheriff, police or security guard if you are afraid for your safety.
- Stand when the judge enters and sit when the judge or bailiff asks you to.
- Try to remain calm but it is OK if you show emotion.
- Take deep breaths if you feel yourself getting tense. Never lose your temper in the courtroom.
- Always tell the truth.
- If you don’t understand a question, just say so. Don’t answer a question that you don’t understand.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Never make up an answer.
- Remember that you know your story better than anyone – you are the expert. Don’t let the abuser or the judge or a lawyer throw you off.
The general order of events in the courtroom:
- The bailiff will “swear you in” by asking you to state your name and swear or affirm to tell the truth.
- Since you are the plaintiff, you will tell your side of the story first and enter any evidence that you have.
- The judge and the the abuser’s lawyer (or possibly the abuser himself if he doesn’t have a lawyer) may ask you questions, which you must answer truthfully.
- When you are finished, your witnesses may speak. You may ask them questions, and then the judge and the defendant will have a turn to ask them questions.
- The defendant will tell his side of what happened and enter his evidence. It may be very different from yours.
- After the defendant tells his story, you and the judge are allowed to ask him questions.
- The judge will make a decision after hearing both sides and considering the evidence. The judge may make the decision right away or may take a recess to give the decision. The recess may be only for a few hours or it may take days or weeks to give the final decision.
- If the judge grants you the final restraining order, the judge may sign it that day at your hearing. If so, then make sure you get a copy, review it, and ask the judge if you have any questions about it. If the judge is not giving his/her decision that day, make sure to ask the judge to extend your temporary restraining order if you have one.
(Info provoded by Women’s Law)