Often our clients ask us how they should act when they’re in court. The answer is easy, be yourself. Attorneys and judges are generally pretty smart people, and, in the course of their professional lives, they develop skills needed to succeed at what they do. One of those skills is evaluating people. Using that skill, they develop as sixth sense when someone isn’t being completely forthright. Most of us can’t tell you what gives a liar away, but we get that uneasy feeling that something isn’t right. Since the judge in a divorce case is the trier of fact and the sole judge (no pun intended) of who to believe and who not to, you don’t want to be sending those subliminal signals that undermine your credibility.
There are three types of evidence the judge uses to decide the case: (1) testimony of witnesses, (2) exhibits or tangible evidence, and (3) demeanor testimony. “Demeanor testimony” is the impression the judge gets from how you answer questions and, generally, how you conduct yourself. Demeanor testimony is very, very important. How you say something carries as much weight as what you say. Therefore, be honest, responsive, and cooperative. In addition, you need to behave yourself at all times while in the courtroom. Even when you’re not testifying, the judge is seeing how you conduct yourself.
That being said, do attorneys and judges ever get fooled? Of course, they do. Specifically, sociopaths are charming, very intelligent, and manipulative. Their main talent lies in their ability to make a convincing presence that is at odds from their underlying evil. All of us have been fooled at times, but, even when dealing with sociopaths, I’ve often had that tickling of my sensors that says, “Beware!”
Presumably, you’re not a sociopath. You’re a good and decent person, one who wants the truth to come out. Give the judge every chance to know that truth by being yourself and acting like an adult during this trying time of your life.