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Don't make these common courtroom mistakes in a divorce

When a couple in Louisiana decides to end their marriage, it may be the first time they are facing a judge in court. Courtroom behavior can have long-term consequences on child custody, property division and support in a divorce. Litigants should avoid behavior that is almost certain to lead to a bad outcome.

Preparation is almost everything. Judges are usually displeased if a spouse cannot answer their questions. For example, a spouse should have documentation proving income and debts if they are seeking a reduction in spousal or child support.

Inappropriate courtroom attire can have all sorts of unintended consequences. Sloppy clothing may harm an argument that a spouse is a responsible parent in a dispute over joint custody or visitation. Wearing expensive jewelry and clothing can undermine a motion for lower support payments.

Another mistake is making unreasonable demands. A spouse should not inflate their request to obtain their desired result, such as asking for support of $1,000 per month while they are satisfied with $500. Judges appreciate and seek reasonable outcomes.

Judges are also busy and dislike interruptions which are also viewed as being disrespectful to the court. Talking on a cellphone or reading and sending emails or text messages is inappropriate. Personal electronic devices should be turned off, so the court is not distracted with beeps or rings.

Spouses also annoy and even anger judges if they interrupt them when they are speaking or if they talk out of turn. A litigant should prepare their thoughts before-hand but speak only when permitted.

Anger is also a turn-off. Judges appreciate litigants who are polite and respectful. A case is stronger if it is presented with courtesy.

This also applies to treatment of clerks and other support staff. Disrespecting staff is disrespecting the judge. Aggrieved staff can also cause minor inconveniences such as scheduling delays.

Finally, unrepresented parties hurt their cases. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on courtroom procedures, Louisiana law and the judge's preferences. A lawyer can help spouses prepare the best case that is possible.

Source: Huffington Post, "9 mistakes that will end up costing you in divorce court," Brittany Wong, Jan. 29, 2018

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