- What happens when I go to court?
- Where do I sit?
- What do I say?
- What do I wear?
- Is it normal to have questions like these?
You will have a better outcome at court if you know what to expect and how to act.
Before You Go to Court:
- In the event there has been family violence or there is a safety concern for you or a child in your household, fill out a Protective Order Application before you go to court. Bring it with you.
- Be specific about parenting time: when, where, supervised (if so, where and who pays) and what happens if either of you does not follow the plan.
- Bring any evidence you have, such as photographs, hospital records, and neighbors and family members who can serve as witnesses and /or be interviewed by the judge.
- Before coming to court, write out a summary of what happened from the beginning up to coming to court. This will help you remember so you can tell the judge what happened in chronological order.
- Use this summary to practice what you are going to say to the judge. It is easy to get nervous in front of a judge and forget what is important to you. Practicing can help you remember to tell the judge exactly what happened and what you want the judge to do.
- If possible, bring proof of your income and expenses; and, if available, the income and expenses of the other person.
- If possible, try to find out more information about the courthouse and where / how to get to the courthouse in advance.
- Find safe childcare for your court date if at all possible. Courts are not set up for children, so try to find a way to avoid having the children come to court.
- Bring a friend or family member for support.
- Do you want an advocate with you? Contact:
- the Texas Advocacy Project’s Family Violence Legal Hotline for assistance: 1 (800)-374-HOPE or
- Contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline to find out about local family violence programs and services in your area: 1 (800)-799-SAFE (7233). For the Deaf and hearing impaired: 1 (800)-787-3224 (TTY) or
- Look up local Texas family violence programs online at: http://www.tcfv.org/resources/service-directory
The Day of Court:
- Plan ahead: Make sure you get to court early.
- If paternity is being established, ask if the DNA test can be conducted at your local child support office when the other parent is not present.
- Find the courtroom and tell the clerk or an officer that you are there. Discuss any safety concerns with them.
- Watch the other cases so that you know what to do and what to expect.
Speaking with the Judge:
- The judge or the other person’s lawyer may ask you questions.
- Tell the truth. Give complete answers and speak clearly. Do not use offensive language or raise your voice. The Judge wants to hear the facts in your own words without accusations.
- If you do not understand a question, ask the judge to repeat it.
- Speak only to the judge. Wait your turn to ask questions.
After the Hearing:
- If the judge decides to grant a protective order, the judge will sign one at this time.
- Take the signed order to the court clerk and ask for certified copies. There may be a cost for this. The clerk will make sure that law enforcement is told about your protective order.
- Give copies to your children’s daycare, babysitter, and school. Keep one copy for yourself in a safe place.