Legal Information

At the Hearing

What do I keep in mind when going to court?

  • Be on time.
  • Have your witnesses there and ready.
  • Have your evidence ready.
  • If you have subpoenaed witnesses or documents and they are not in court, you should inform the judge.
  • Dress appropriately (as if you had a job interview).
  • Speak directly to the judge; s/he should understand if you feel nervous. Do not speak or argue with the abuser during the hearing. Although it may be upsetting to hear the abuser say things that are untrue, you should have the opportunity to tell your story directly to the judge.
  • Always address the judge as “Your Honor.”
  • Be prepared to spend all day in court. (There may be hearings before yours.) If you have children, try to find someone to take care of them while you are in court.
  • If the abuser comes to court with a lawyer and you do not have a lawyer, ask the judge for a “continuance” so you can look for a lawyer.
  • While you are waiting to be called, it is your right to move seats if the abuser sits next to you, and to receive help from court staff in keeping the abuser away from you. Tell the bailiff or any sheriff, police or security guard if you are afraid for your safety.
  • Stand when the judge enters and sit when the judge or bailiff asks you to.
  • Try to remain calm but it is OK if you show emotion.
  • Take deep breaths if you feel yourself getting tense. Never lose your temper in the courtroom.
  • Always tell the truth.
  • If you don’t understand a question, just say so. Don’t answer a question that you don’t understand.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Never make up an answer.
  • Remember that you know your story better than anyone - you are the expert. Don’t let the abuser or the judge or a lawyer throw you off.
  • Prepare for the possibility that you might lose the case and may need to file an appeal of the judge’s order. In order to know how to prepare for a possible appeal, go to What steps do I need to take during the trial to set myself up for possibly being able to appeal if I lose?

WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.