After a rather heated and pathetic exchange in open court in a recent divorce action involving such matters as temporary alimony, a rabid skunk, bankruptcy, lingerie and bank fraud the judge became (understandably) disgusted and walked off the bench leaving the two warring parties and their wary, exhausted attorneys to fend for themselves. Just the four of us. With no neutral third party to hear us out.
Having scared the judge off with our collective bullshit, we had to come to an agreement, or else.
Things did not improve.
The stenographer looked concerned. The sheriff was amused.
Even though that particular day did not go well, the very next court appearance some four weeks later (with the benefit of mediation and Xanax) the parties both made concessions and were happily divorced. Shrug.
It sounds silly, but it is important to remember that Family Court judges are not automatons, or merely unfeeling, robed representatives of the judiciary. They do not wear wigs, or speak with an accent. They are not covered in dust. Judges are people too, and the Family Court system can seem to first-time participants to be surprisingly … human. In that it is: flawed, awkward, and tending to progress in fits, starts, and tantrums. And like humans, the Family Court always has the best intentions: to protect the children involved to the best of its ability and to move people through the process.
Make no mistake, you go to the Family Court to visit. It is a time share. You do not overstay your welcome or stake a claim.
You will have to take my word for this, but your judge does not dislike you. Not in a personal way, anyway. In the ten years I have been practicing I can count on one hand the number of times my judge actually actively and obviously disliked either my client or the opposing party. And those few, poor souls had it coming. Truly. No. Your judge does not harbor any ill-will towards you or your spouse (or significant other). Believe it or not, your judge, who you had made red faced with rage arguing about rabid skunks, is otherwise a kind, patient, and happy person. When not on the bench they are quite zen.
Judges like concision and facts and honesty. They dislike tangents, stories, and pettiness. They like you to answer their questions because that way they can solve your problem and get you on your way. A judge wants to know what you want, why you want it, and what is best for your child. That is their stock-in-trade. With that information, they can probably grant you at least a temporary, creative settlement that you had never even thought in fifteen years in less than fifteen minutes. So be honest, and be respectful, and be clear about what you want and what you need. Be clear about what you cannot and will not accept under any circumstances, and why.
Your judge does not dislike you, but she doesn’t want to spend her entire day with you either.