Preparing for Court

Authored By: Florida Justice Technology Center


What do I do with the papers I get from the Court?

First look over the papers to figure out when and where your court date will be.The papers from the court will also tell you when you need to be in court and might include a specific courtroom number. Next, read the papers to see what will happen that day in court.  You might be attending just a status conference to check in about the progress of your case, or it may be a hearing or trial. 

Before you go to court, read over all the papers that you and the other side have received or given to the court.  You want to be sure you understand everything so you will feel ready and prepared. 

What do I do with papers I want to give to the judge?

Any documents submitted by either side like the complaint or petition to start the lawsuit or an answer to a petition must be shared with all parties. Make several copies of anything you file and deliver them to the court, to the other party (or their attorney, if they have one). Usually it is your responsibility to make sure the other side has the papers you file, the court usually does not do this for you.  Be sure to keep copies of everything for yourself, too.

What do I bring to court?

You should bring your copies of all the papers that have been filed. Also, bring anything else that you want the judge to see, with extra copies. It’s a good idea to get a folder that you can bring everything in and arrange it in a way that you can easily find everything.  Also bring some a blank pad or notebook to write down questions or things you need to remember that the judge says. 

Do I need to bring witnesses?

If you think that someone could help in your case (agency worker, doctor, etc.), you should ask them to attend. Check with the court clerk to see if you need to provide the names in advance to the Court and the other party. If you decide to use witnesses, you will be asking them questions in court. Be sure to write out all your questions in advance and go over them with the witness.

Whether or not you need a witness way depend on why you are going to court and what kinf of case you have. Witnesses mat not be required at a status hearing but a hearing a trial usually does require witnesses.  Injunctions almost always require a witness. 

If the other side will have a witness, you should be ready to call a witness if you have them. Or if you are having trouble getting your witness to court, be prepared to tell the court and ask for additional time to get the witness there. 

What will I have to say in court?

You should be prepared to explain your side of the case when it is your turn to speak or when the judge asks you a question. It would be a good idea to list the main points you want to make. Bring your list and a brief summary of your side with you in your folder.

What should I wear to court?

It’s very important to wear the right type of clothing to Court. Court is like a business environment. Dress as if you are going to an important job interview or going to church. Clothes should be clean and neat and not be too revealing. You want to make an impression that shows you take this matter seriously and you respect the judge and the court process. Avoid t-shirts, tank tops, jeans, shorts and flip-flops. Once inside the courtroom, be sure to remove hats or caps. Head coverings worn for religious purposes are, of course, allowed. Also avoid logos, political statements, or other commentary on clothing.  

What if I have special needs?

If you need any special accommodations because of a disability or the need for an interpreter, be sure to let the court clerk know well ahead of time. That way the court will be prepared for speech or hearing disabilities, handicap accessibility, or language barriers.

When should I arrive at court?

You should arrange to be in the Courthouse at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appearance. Be sure to take into consideration the time it will take you to get there, to find parking, to go through security and to find the right courtroom. If you are not there when your case is called. The judge may make a decision without hearing your side, or may dismiss the case altogether.

What about court security?

When you enter a courthouse, you should expect to pass through a metal detector. You may also be asked to leave cell phones or other electronic equipment with the security guard. With this in mind, it’s good to plan to be in the courthouse without metals (like belt-buckles, metal-toed shoes or electronics).

Can I bring my children to court?

Do not bring children to court unless you are specifically asked to do so by the judge. 

How long will I have to wait?

This depends on the judge’s calendar for the day. Some cases take longer than others. Some cases take less time and they may be heard first. It’s a good idea to plan to be in court the whole day.

What happens if I do not go to court? What if the other side doesn't come to court?

If the person who brought the case doesn’t appear, the judge may dismiss the case. If the person who is responding doesn’t appear, the judge may find them in default and decide for the other party.

What happens in the courtroom?

You will be told where to sit. When it is your time to speak, you must address the judge as “Your Honor”. Speak only when it is your turn and speak to the judge. This is your opportunity to let the Court know about your side of the issue. Make use of the list and outline you prepared ahead of time. Do not interrupt the other party and do not speak to the other party directly.

What happens when its over?

After both parties have presented their cases, the judge or the jury will make a decision. Sometimes the judge waits to make a decision. In that case, you will receive it in the mail.

What should I keep track of before and after court?

Get a folder and your notebook or pad.  List all vital info (case name and number), all Clerk contact info (sometimes you will have to go through a system and recording before speaking to a person), check out any on-line clerk sites where you can track your case.  Finally, write down everything in that notebook (dates, names, contact info, what was said/accomplished/attempted/filed, etc.) so that you create a chronological record, for future litigation or your own reference, until the matter is finished.

Updated: May 8, 2017 

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