Navigating the Court System

Helpful Tips for Going to Court

Questions to ask the DSS caseworker or Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

  1. When and where is the hearing?   
  2. What type of hearing is this?  
  3. What will be decided at the hearing? 
  4. Who will be present?  
  5. Do I need a lawyer? If so, who can help me find one
  6. Who will represent the child? May I speak to that person? 
  7. May I speak at the hearing?  
  8. When is the next hearing scheduled?  
  9. Will the child be asked to speak at the hearing? How can I best support them? 

Tips for Going to Court 

  1. Be early. Arrive at the courthouse at least 30 minutes before the hearing. Be sure to ask court officials or law enforcement officers where the appropriate waiting area is and listen closely to make sure you hear when a case is called. Let the people from DSS involved in your case know you are there and want to be in the courtroom during the hearing. Ultimately, the judge will decide who is allowed in the courtroom and when.
  2. Dress appropriately. Your “Sunday best” clothes will work. Do not wear halter tops, short, torn jeans, short skirts, or hats. 
  3. Turn off the sound to all electronic devices before entering the courtroom.  
  4. Do not bring food or drink into the courtroom. 
  5. Show the judge respect. Address the judge as “judge” or “your honor.”  
  6. Be polite. While it is fine to show your feelings, don’t curse or yell. 
  7. Refrain from having side conversations with others, particularly if it does not involve the hearing. 
  8. Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking, and wait for the judge to address you before speaking.  
  9. If you want to speak during the hearing, let the lawyer for DSS or the Guardian ad Litem know in advance.
  10. Don’t guess at an answer. Don’t lie. If you don’t understand a question, ask the judge or attorney to explain it. Do not answer the question until you understand. 
  11. Don’t bring children to the hearing unless the court has requested to speak with them, the child wishes to talk to the judge, or the child has been called as a witness. 
  12. Do not leave without understanding what the judge has ordered. If you do not understand, ask the DSS attorney or the child’s attorney to explain it, and consider consulting with a family law attorney. 

*Not Intented as Legal Advice