Dress appropriately. Do not overdress but do not underdress. Avoid flashy clothes and colors.
Appear neat and clean. Wear little or no jewelry. Women should wear skirts or dresses. Dress for court as you would dress for church or an employment interview. A lawyer cousin of mine once said, “How you dress reflects your attitude toward the court and your attitude toward yourself.”
Delays in the start of court are common, because the judge wants a pre-trial conference with the lawyers, because the court held an emergency hearing, or the judge is simply behind schedule. Avoid your spouse and your spouse's witnesses. You may speak to them course, but do not discuss the case and do not argue with them. Having something to read, such as book or some records from your file, is beneficial to prepare for your case and to avoid boredom during the wait. Go to the bathroom and get a drink of water before going into the courtroom, just as you would before starting a trip and for the same reasons.
Do not appear cocky, loud, boisterous, or overconfident. "He who laughs last laughs
Treat the judge with absolute respect. Stand when he enters the room. Address the judge as "Your Honor" and punctuate your responses with "sir." One retired judge once told me that most judges appear casual or uncaring about these small signs of respect. However, he added, “Notice that when the judge enters and says ‘keep your seats,’ he never says it until everyone is already standing.”
Body language is important. Do not sit with your arms folded across your chest. Listen attentively and respectfully to each witness and the judge. Do not jiggle your leg, drum your fingers, or otherwise indicate impatience, nervousness, or a lack of self-control. The court provides water at each table for the lawyers and litigants. Do not drink it during court. Especially, do not take water to the witness stand and do not ask for water while you are testifying. The need for water is often perceived as a sign of untrustworthiness or nervousness. As a deodorant commercial once advised, “Never let them see you sweat.”
In court, do not react to a witness's testimony in any manner. Do not show agreement or disagreement with the testimony of any witnesses. You will have your opportunity to testify. Judges strongly dislike expressions or reactions to the testimony of a witness just as many viewers reacted negatively to Al Gore’s sighs and rolling of his eyes during his first debate with President George W. Bush.
Avoid talking to me while the judge or a witness is talking. I can listen to only one person at a time and I already understand your case. I will try to remember to give you a pen and note pad so you can make notes for me during the trial. If I forget, remind me.
When testifying, keep your answers as brief as possible. Listen to the questions. Treat your spouse's lawyer with absolute respect. Do not argue with your spouse's lawyer or the judge.
If you make a mistake in your testimony and you are the first to catch that mistake, say, "Excuse me. A minute ago I said '_____' but I should have said '_____." If your spouse's attorney points out an error or contradiction in your testimony say "I am sorry. You are correct. I should have said '_____." Do not try to cover or deny a mistake. Honest witnesses make mistakes but honest witnesses do not try to cover or deny their mistakes.
Do not lose your temper. "He whom the gods would destroy, they first make angry." Every lawyer’s dream is for an opposing litigant or opposing witness to lose his temper. Lose your temper and lose your case.
Avoid sarcasm and wit. You may have the world's greatest sense of humor but it has no place in the courtroom. Later you can share with me what you wanted to say and we can each have a good laugh. If someone says the funniest thing you have ever heard then you may laugh, but only if the judge laughs first. If the judge says something funny then a polite laugh is appropriate.