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From adoption proceedings to divorce litigation, your behavior in court can dramatically alter family proceedings. Sure, common sense is important, but it never hurts to brush up on etiquette 101. Keep the following in mind as you prepare for court:

Dress Appropriately

Make a strong first impression in a professional, appropriately formal outfit. Dress as you would for a first interview, but without any overtly ostentatious displays. An expensive watch or diamond jewelry may suggest that you’re perfectly capable of handling high alimony payments. Aim for simple suits, slacks, or skirts in neutral colors, paired with close-toed shoes.

Arrive Early

A late arrival creates a horrible first impression. Even making it in the nick of time can cause problems; you may feel harried and find it difficult to concentrate.

Traffic and parking issues can cause a long commute to court. Mitigate these in advance by planning to arrive at least fifteen minutes early.

Silence Or Turn Off Your Phone

Smart phones permeate every aspect of modern life, but they should not prompt distractions in court. If your phone is a constant temptation, consider leaving it in the car. At minimum, keep it on silent.

Use Formal Titles

Don’t refer to the opposition by his or her first name. Instead, use formal titles such as Mr. ___ or Ms. ___.

Resist the Urge to Interrupt

Your opposition will likely make several statements you find objectionable. Instead of shouting him or her down, wait for your opportunity to respond.

Don’t Insult

Avoid harsh language. Tone down negative rhetoric, and avoid expletives and insults at all costs.

Control Your Facial Expressions

Disdain will show just as readily on your face as it does through your language. Avoid scowls, eye-rolling, or other expressions of contempt.

No Food or Gum

Wait until after your court session to eat or chew gum. Beverages other than water should also be avoided. If you have a cold, a lozenge may be acceptable — but be discreet.

The right attorney can guide you through the complications of court and help you avoid faux pas. Seek detail-oriented counsel from the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd.