By Jaime Culotta
Preparing for your upcoming hearing date can be stressful to say the least. The importance of making a good impression comes second only to preparation. This article will discuss how to prepare for an In-person Hearing so that you are confident and ready to make the best impression possible.
How to Prepare Documentation for the Hearing
If you intend to present documentation to the Court at the hearing in support of your case, you will need to submit that documentation to the Court and the Opposing Party prior to the hearing – usually before 2:00 p.m. on the business day before the hearing. The requirements for exchanging documentation vary between Courts and can be found on each Court’s website. If you have hired an attorney you will need to provide them with any documentation you wish to use in Court at least 1-week prior to the hearing, although the sooner you provide that documentation the better. This will allow time for your attorney to prepare your testimony and ensure that the documents are labeled, filed, and exchanged in accordance with the Court’s policies and procedures.
How to Dress
When attending a hearing, it is important that you pay special attention to your appearance. While it sounds vain, putting extra effort into your appearance is the first step in making a good first impression.
For men, a suit with a natural colored dress shirt, tie and dress shoes are preferred. If you do not own a suit, we would suggest a pair of slacks, a button-down shirt and a sport’s coat. If you have a beard – trim it, if you have long hair – pull it back.
For women, a pant or skirt suit with a modest blouse and low heels are preferred. We recommend that you do not wear large or excessive jewelry. There are a variety of hairstyles women can wear in Court but we do recommend a style that keeps your hair out of your face. As far as makeup goes – keep it simple and light.
Just a reminder that Downtown Houston has scarce parking and more often than not clients are required to park a few blocks away from the Court house. Ladies, if you are wearing heels to Court – bring a pair of flats for the walk. Your feet with thank you later.
How to Prepare for the Hearing
Prior to your hearing you will need to meet with your attorney to discuss your testimony. This will likely be done within a week of the hearing. Be sure to review any testimony outlines your attorney gives you, as you will not be allowed to rely on them in Court.
The day before the hearing you will want to GPS the trip from your house to the Courthouse. Make sure to allow yourself more than enough time to make the commute in case of traffic (which is pretty much a guarantee here in Houston). Don’t forget that parking near the Courthouse is scarce and you will likely have to walk some distance. Use the website Parkwiz.com to help you find parking.
After you have commuted into the city and parked, you will still need to go through security. You will be asked to remove all jewelry, keys, and other metal objects and any bags or purses will need to be x-rayed. They will confiscate knives, mace and other weapons and you will not get them back.
Allowing time for the commute, parking, and security is very important, as you do not want to be late for any type of legal proceeding. We recommend that you allot 35 minutes in addition to your commute time for parking, walking, and security.
How to behave in the Hearing
Where to meet Larry - Once you have gone through security you will want to take the elevator to the floor for the Court in which your case will be heard. Go into the courtroom, Larry will look for you inside of the Courtroom.
Cellphones - Courts allow cellphones with the condition that they be silenced upon entry into the Court and that they are not visible or in use inside the courtroom. Do yourself a favor and put your phone away when you enter the courtroom. If you must use your cell phone, leave the courtroom.
Testimony – The Petitioner in the case has the privilege of presenting their case first. The order of testimony is as follows:
i. Petitioner questioned by Petitioner’s Attorney
ii. Petitioner questioned by Respondent’s Attorney
iii. Petitioner’s Witness questioned by Petitioner’s Attorney
iv. Petitioner’s Witness questioned by Respondent’s Attorney
v. Respondent questioned by Respondent’s Attorney
vi. Respondent questioned by Petitioner’s Attorney
vii. Respondent’s Witness questioned by Respondent’s Attorney
viii. Respondent’s Witness questioned by Petitioner’s Attorney
Each individual who is called to testify will be put under oath (i.e. they testify under penalty of perjury). The most important thing to know is to be honest. If Larry asks you a question and the other attorney asks you a question, your answer should be the same. There is the tendency to not want to give the otherwise all of the truth. Don’t give into that impulse. Give the truth, the who truth, and nothing but the truth.
If either attorney objects to your testimony (i.e. they say “Objection!”) you should stop talking immediately while until the Court makes a ruling. If the objection is overruled, the attorney questioning you will ask you to respond. If the objection is sustained the attorney will ask you another question.
When the other party is testifying, it is likely that they will say something you believe to be dishonest or that you do not agree with. It is important that you do not respond physically to their testimony. Do not make a face or shake your head. You want to remain calm, collected, and professional at all times in front of the Judge. Instead, write down your comment for Larry to read and understand.
We hope this article helps you prepare for your upcoming hearing. If you currently have a Court Date and are not represented by an Attorney, contact our office to schedule a FREE 1-hour consultation to discuss your options.