Prepare for Your Court Date Without Losing Your Mind

Court dates are stressful! Before my first ever court date I barely slept and was relieved when it was finally time to get out of bed and stop pretending to sleep. The whole drive to the courthouse my stomach was in knots. As I sat waiting on the bench for my name to be called I had to breathe slowly and will my stomach to relax so I wouldn’t vomit. My body was shaking and I was on the verge of a panic attack for the two hours I had to wait.

Since that first horrible experience, I learned how to stay calm and make it through a court date with much less distress. Here is my cheat sheet for making it through a court date with sanity intact:

  1. Prepare. Do your best to feel prepared. Read over any evidence you think you may be questioned on. Go over your timeline of events and review dates. You can make a note to refer to while you are waiting in court. I also remind myself of possible responses to opposing counsel if I will be taking the stand. “Can you rephrase that question?” “What do you mean by _____?” “I’m unsure what you are asking me.” Never answer a question you aren’t sure of. Hopefully, your attorney will object for you. You can also ask for clarity at any time. It is empowering to advocate for yourself while you are under the microscope and shows the opposing attorney that you will not be pushed around.
  2. Rest. Give yourself a preparation cut-off time and then do something relaxing and go to bed early. Cramming all night is not going to help you in court the next day. You need as much rest as possible so you can think clearly and stay out of your emotions as much as possible. You will most likely be asked to make an important decision and you want to be able to think it through before responding.
  3. Clothing. Choose what you will wear a few days before court and have a backup outfit just in case. You want to look put together but not overdone. I err on the side of more dressed up and have been mistaken for an attorney when I’m going through security. You want to dress in a way that is respectful to the court. Women should wear three-quarter length or long sleeves. Modest dresses that are below the knee with a sweater or blazer always look nice. Slacks and a blouse are appropriate.
  4. Nourish yourself. I eat my usual breakfast before court. Stress burns a lot of calories so pack a lunch and good snacks. I don’t normally eat candy and sugary foods but I bring peanut M&M’s and a travel mug of sweetened coffee or tea for an extra hit of caffeine to keep my mind awake. Take something you can eat quickly during breaks. I’ve had days where we didn’t get a break for lunch and my blood sugar began to drop.
  5. Take a notebook. I am never able to remember all of the information that comes out in court unless I take notes. I want to remember what witnesses said, what I observed about someone’s behavior, how many bailiffs were in the room, etc. Your attorney will usually give you a legal pad so you can write notes to him as a witness is speaking or during the opposing attorney’s opening and closing arguments. You know your case better than anyone else. It is important for you to keep things straight for your attorney.
  6. Support. Have a friend or family member on standby. If you can bring a support person to court with you do so. I had a few friends I could text, call, or message before, during breaks, and after court to help me blow off emotions so I could stick to logic in court. It helps a lot to know someone is thinking and/or praying for you on court day. During breaks, you can text them a quick request or read an encouraging text they have sent you. Do not use your phone in court, not even to take notes.
  7. Recovery. Plan something fun or relaxing that evening or the next day. Do something that is comforting to help you recover from the stress.
  8. Always remember it WILL be okay.

First published on Medium on October 29, 2021




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