With the exception of child adoption, facing a family court hearing is rarely a joyous occasion. Often, these hearings occur during the worst time in a family’s life as they argue contentious issues such as a divorce agreement, child custody, child support, and alimony. Family court cases may be intensely emotional as well as legally complex. Before navigating a hearing in family court, you’ll be far less anxious if you’re fully prepared. Preparing for a court hearing means knowing what to expect and how to present yourself and your argument in the best possible light before a judge.
How Do Most Family Court Cases Work in Arizona?
The Arizona family court system handles legal cases involving family law, such as divorce, child custody, and other domestic relations matters. The court prioritizes the best interests of children. It also seeks to resolve family disputes with reasonable solutions to satisfy both parties whenever possible. Most family court hearings proceed as follows:
- Trial preparation: your attorney promptly files all petitions in the correct jurisdiction
- Review: your attorney will go over the process, the evidence, and your testimony with you many times before the hearing date
- The trial date arrives
- Attorneys present opening arguments: both parties share their arguments. The petitioner presents first
- Evidence and witness presentation: the judge hears testimony and views evidence presented by both sides
- Closing arguments: both sides sum up their compelling arguments and reiterate their stance
- Final decision: The judge reviews all of the evidence and testimony and then presents a final decision on all points in the petition within 60 days
Court cases almost always come with a few unanticipated surprises, but by preparing for the process with your lawyer and understanding what to expect in your legal proceeding you’ll be much more prepared with minimal anxiety on the day of the hearing. The lower your anxiety level during your Arizona family court hearing, the more likely you are to present a calm, stable appearance and a strong argument before the judge.
In some cases today, your appearance may be virtual. It’s still important to have a calm, informed appearance throughout the virtual proceeding.
Preparing Yourself for Court
On your hearing day, dress in professional business attire—as though you’re attending a job interview. In court, it’s always best to present a dignified, conservative appearance. Neutral colors and solids rather than prints are usually the way to go in a courtroom.
Be sure you’ve been completely upfront with your attorney so they don’t face any unexpected revelations in court.
A Phoenix family law attorney recommends observing another trial presided over by the same judge so you’ll feel more comfortable and prepared on your hearing date. You should also research rules and regulations for family court in your jurisdiction. When your hearing date arrives, do the following:
- Arrive early to be sure you find parking or log in early to a virtual hearing in case you experience technical problems
- Don’t bring new romantic partners with you to family court
- Refer to the judge as “Your Honor”
- Take your time and speak clearly when answering questions. Don’t ramble, answer unasked questions, or go off-topic
- Don’t interrupt others and always show respect
- Ask for clarification if you are confused about a question
- Be well-organized for your hearing. With your attorney’s help, you should have a plan ready to present to the judge for any of the contentious issues such as a proposed parenting plan, and/or a plan for asset distribution depending on the matters in litigation.
By taking the time to thoroughly prepare for your court hearing in Arizona, you’ll know what to expect. Being well-prepared helps you present a calm, confident image that can benefit your case.