Body language can matter in the family court

Stange Law Firm, PC

In any court date in the family court, there are a lot of moving parts. For example, if there is a trial or evidentiary hearing, parties are often worried about the case itself.

The case itself might mean worrying about the witnesses who will be called, the evidence presented, and how the judge will rule. It also might involve the emotions and stress involved with having to be in court. For many, it took a long time to get a trial or court date.

Even if it is not a trial date, but merely a motion date, pretrial or settlement conference, these court dates can be stressful. Stress can cause parties to become nervous, anxious or even frustrated.

These feelings can sometimes bring out bad body language in the courtroom. The bad body language can culminate in frowning, being fidgety, slouching or even reacting negatively from a body language perspective based on what happens in court.

Some parties may moan or gasp. Others might throw up their hands or fidget in their chairs. In some instances, parties might furiously pass notes to their lawyers. Ultimately, the poor visuals can be damaging.

The bad body language can come when an individual simply sees the other party or their family in a contentious case. But the wrong body language can begin when the opposing lawyer is speaking, when a witness is testifying or something happens that they feel is bad for their case. Worse yet, it can come when the judge says something or announces a ruling from the bench.

Bad body language can damage a case. The reality is judges have lots of discretion in divorce or family court cases in terms of what they do. Often, judges are weighing the credibility of witnesses not only based on what they say, but what they can see visually.

If the family court judge sees something from a body language perspective they do not like, it can be damaging. Ultimately, parties need to be careful that they are in control of their body language. They have to understand that this can make a difference.

Some useful tips include remaining stone-faced at all times. No matter what happens in a courtroom, or what is said, most parties should not react to it in any way. Sitting in a chair with good posture can also help. The way a party is seated can project confidence and a sense of calm.

Even with the stress of these court dates, parties have to go to their happy place in the courtroom emotionally. It might mean meditating or praying for peace in terms of whatever happens. It might mean engaging in breathing techniques or trying to focus on something else while waiting or sitting in the courtroom. Whatever helps a person display a positive demeanor, they should utilize those skills.

Parties have to avoid showing their anger, anxiety and frustration as best as possible. To the extent they are getting emotional, talking to their attorney in a private room to express their concerns can help. It might mean taking a walk or going to the water fountain or restroom when emotions are building up. But when a party is in the courtroom, they should realize that everything they do can impact the case.

Bad body language can even impact the ability to settle the case. In other words, if the opposing party and lawyer can see that a party is becoming unglued, some may decide not to settle the case because they might believe that the other party will not make a good impression. In this way, body language can even impact settlement negotiations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Stange Law Firm, PC

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