As common as it is for children to be brought to the courthouse, families often never receive helpful information to guide their children through an event that is already nerve-wracking enough for adults. At Walker, Wright & Associates, LLP, we would like to use our experience to outline some of what happens in court so your children can be put at ease with you.
First, you will want to help the child understand why they will be in court, and how actively they are needed to be involved. You can also help a child who needs to go to the courthouse feel at ease by giving them a basic introduction to what kinds of people will be present in the courtroom. For example, you may help them understand who the judge is by describing their job, how they are like referees in making the decision about the argument in court, how they are sometimes assisted in their decision by jurors, and how lawyers or attorneys can advise the people who are bringing their disagreement to court. A room full of bailiffs and court reporters can be intimidating, especially if a child does not understand the role of these people in making the courtroom fair and safe.
Going over rules for behavior in court ahead of time can help a child prepare for the stress of following these rules. Children should be made aware they will not be able to eat, drink, chew gum, or listen to music when in court, so a book can be a good distraction to consider. These rules help maintain respect in the court, such as addressing the judge as “Your Honor,” and only speaking when asked to by the judge or a lawyer. Be sure to remind them it is fine and encouraged to ask questions, or ask for clarification if there is something they do not understand.
Children most often come to court because of cases that involve their family, and so they can feel a lot of pressure to speak and answer in ways they think others may want to hear. They should be reminded it is important and ok to say they do not know or do not remember, and not to make up answers to questions, or to guess.
Our priority at Walker, Wright & Associates, LLP is the positive resolution of your family law needs. We value your family as individuals, and are here to support you and your children through this complicated and often disorienting process.