It’s always good to make a good impression when going into a Florida Family Law Court, and one of the best ways to make a good impression is to follow proper etiquette. Fortunately, the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has published its Rules of Etiquette for Family Law cases in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties:
1. Be aware that the judges, general magistrates, hearing officers, or any other court personnel cannot give you legal advice. You may only obtain legal advice from an attorney. You may obtain general information from the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s website at www.jud12.flcourts.org.
2. Arrive at least twenty (20) minutes before your hearing is scheduled to begin. There are unpredictable times when legal emergencies pressure the court to begin as early as possible. You should know that a judge may also dismiss your case if you are not present at the scheduled time.
3. All persons appearing before the court must dress in an appropriate manner. Shorts, hats, flip-flops, jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, and tank tops are not suitable for the courtroom.
4. Do not bring food or beverages into the courtroom. Never chew gum or use tobacco products in the courtroom.
5. Turn off your cell phone.
6. Do not bring children to the courthouse unless the judge or your attorney requests that you do so.
7. Stand when you are addressing the court and address the judge as “your honor.”
8. Be prepared for court. Familiarize yourself with the issues, read the pleadings and other documents, and be prepared to present your case to the court.
9. Bring with you any evidence and witnesses you wish the court to consider. The court cannot consider written statements from witnesses.
10. Be aware that you must state in your pleadings the relief you want. The court cannot grant relief that you do not request in your pleadings.
11. Bring several copies of any documents that you intend to offer into evidence. You must provide a copy to the opposing party and his/her attorney. Each copy should be labeled “exhibit” and indicate the case number, names of the parties, the date, and have a space for the judge’s signature.
12. Tell the truth. Any false statement made to the court under oath is perjury, which is a crime.
13. Be courteous. Do not interrupt the judge, any party, or any witness who is speaking. You will have the opportunity to present your case.
14. Speak directly to the judge or your attorney. Do not argue with the judge, the opposing party, his/her attorney, or a witness.
15. Be aware that any witnesses you bring with you to court may or may not be permitted in the courtroom with you until it is his/her turn to testify.
16. Do not call or write the judge a letter. The judge cannot talk to you or consider any written or oral evidence out of the presence of both parties.
17. Be respectful to all court personnel, including the judges, general magistrates, hearing officers, bailiffs, case managers, judicial assistants, clerks, and all other court staff.
Of course, hiring a family law attorney can give you the best chance of making a good impression in court.