Don’t meet your attorney at the courthouse. Meet him somewhere else — earlier!
In the mad rush to Family Court hearings, attorneys and their clients frequently fail to make clear arrangements to prepare for court, before they get to the courthouse. Often, this won’t matter, particularly if the attorney is a seasoned pro, and if the nature of the hearing does not require any testimony from the client. On other occasions, however, it is critical to meet early and prepare for the hearing. In fact, the best practice is to routinely meet early and prepare for all hearings.
If you are a parent preparing for a hearing involving child custody or parenting time rights, there are many reasons to meet your attorney outside of the courthouse, well in advance of the hearing. For one thing, your attorney should be thoroughly educated on what your wishes are, and should get any recent updates from you before you get to court. Likewise, you should have a clear understanding of what will happen at the hearing, and whether you will be required to testify or to offer any behind-the-scenes support for the attorney. By getting prepared early, parents and their attorneys can present an organized uniform appearance before the Family Court judge. Nothing is more distracting than unprepared attorneys asking questions to their clients constantly throughout a hearing in order to have a better understanding of the case. Or clients (parents) who nudge the lawyer constantly and whisper in his ear repeatedly during the hearing. It is much more organized — and gives a much better appearance to the judge — if you have fully consulted with each other before court gets started.
Moreover, it is a good idea to meet outside of the courthouse, if possible. Meeting at the lawyer’s office or even at a local coffee shop will allow you to patiently address the issues outside the observation of your opponents. If nothing else, try to arrive early at the courthouse so that you and your lawyer can occupy one of the few available attorney-client conference rooms spread around most courthouses. Having a private strategy session prior to court helps to defuse some of the anxiety that surround child custody hearings, and will only serve to increase your preparedness.