Courtroom Decorum for Your Raleigh Divorce

Although television my have you believe something different, in reality the courtroom is a place of tradition and rules.   The tradition and rules exist to create an environment of solemnity and gravity where important issues can be decided.   Behavior that negatively impacts the solemnity and gravity of the courtroom should be avoided.

Here are some basic rules:

  1. Stand when court is opened, recessed or adjourned for the day.
  2. Stand when addressing or being addressed by the judge.
  3. In Wake County, the deputy sheriff will call the court to order.
  4. Listen to the deputy, he or she will give instructions at the beginning of court and frequently the instructions will be based on the particular judges rules in his or her courtroom.
  5. Don’t wear a hat or ball cap in the courtroom.
  6. Do not approach the judge or a witness without asking for permission of the court.
  7. The space between the bar and the bench is reserved for attorneys and court personnel   Don’t go into that area unless directed by the deputy, the judge, or your attorney.
  8. The witness stand is also called the dock.  Prior to testifying you will be sworn or affirmed by the judge or the clerk either at counsel table or once you are in the dock.
  9. In NC courts, witnesses are normally examined by the attorney from a seated position behind one of the counsel tables.
  10. Counsel or pro se parties should request permission before approaching the judge or a witness.
  11. Cell phones and pagers should be turned off or in a vibrate mode. Computers should be used with audio off.

Use common sense and follow these rules and you will be on your way to making a favorable impression.



Representing Yourself in Wake Family Court: Part 4

When Things go Wrong in Your Raleigh DivorceThis is the fourth in a series of articles on going pro se in Wake County Family Court in Raleigh, NC.   In Part 1 I gave a general outline.  In Part 2, we focused on the Wake County Local Rules.  In Part 3, I  covered basic courtroom decorum and procedures.   Today, in Part 4, I want to talk about sources of law.  In other words, where you should look to find the law if you are representing yourself.

North Carolina originally adopted its law from the common law of England.   Much of our law still has principles that can be traced back to our adoption of the common law.  In the family law context, a good example of that is the law related to alienation of affections and criminal conversation.  Later on, efforts were made to codify the law.  That means parts of the common law, as well as new laws that were needed in a society of increasing complexity, were put into statutes.  These are now known as the North Carolina General Statutes.  They can be found online in several places, one of which is at the source of the statutes, the North Carolina General Assembly.

You might wonder about federal law… that is the law of the United States… and the impact on family law.  For reasons that are historical and constitutional the law of divorce, child support, child custody, alimony and equitable distribution are matters os state, not federal law.  There are some interesting examples of some overlap and impact of federal law and Supreme Court decisions on state law, but in most situations and most cases, the impact is minimal.

Apart from statutory law, there is a body of law from the North Carolina appellate courts that continue to explain, define, and interpret the common law and the statutory law.   There is a constant stream of appellate decisions that impact the law.  As an example of how complicated this is, take a few minutes to read this example case from 2012.    There are many cases each year where the appellate courts touch on issue of family law.   As a pro se litigant it is extremely difficult to learn all that can be learned about an area of family law that you are involved in.  However, if you want to do as well as you can, you need to educate yourself.

In addition to the substantive law in an area, there are also laws related to procedure and evidence.  These are known, respectively  as the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and the North Carolina Rules of Evidence.  The Rules of Civil Procedure, for example, cover such things as depositions.  The rules of evidence deal with what is proper evidence in court, how it is submitted, hearsay, etc.



Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over eighteen years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement.


Representing Yourself in Wake County Family Court: Part 3

When Things go Wrong in Your Raleigh DivorceThis is the third in a  series of articles on going pro se in Wake County Family Court in Raleigh, NC.   In Part 1 I gave a general outline.  In Part 2, we focused on the Wake County Local Rules.  In Part 3 I will cover basic courtroom decorum and procedures that a person who is representing himself or herself should follow.

  • Confirm in advance that your case is on the court calendar.   You can check here.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Know the law on the issues you have before the court.  For example, if your issues is child suport, your can review the statutes and do interent research.
  • Be on time.   The calendar call from most family court cases in Wake County is 9:00AM.   Give yourself time to find parking in downtown Raleigh and to make your way through security in the courthouse and onto the elevator.
  • If you can not be on time for court or some emergency arises, try to call or contact the case coordinator for the judge assigned to your case.  Do this before court; do not wait or delay.
  • Turn your cell phone off once you get in the courtroom.
  • Stand up when your name is called.  Answer clearly and advise the court of any issues with your availability for the hearing.   It’s best not to complain to the judge about your work schedule… everyone in court is missing work.
  • If you have a motion related to the hearing or trial going forward that you want to make, such as to continue the case, mention it when the judge first calls your case on the court’s calendar.
  • When your case is called take a seat with your paperwork at one of the tables.  You are not allowed to bring a friend or family member to the table with you unless that person is a lawyer.
  • If you have any friends, witnesses or family in the courtroom on your behalf, tell them in advance that they are not to speak up in the courtroom or cause any disturbance.  Explain to them that their opportunity to tell their side of the facts will be on the witness stand.
  • Bring several copies of any documents you want to try to get into evidence.
  • Do not argue with the other party.
  • When it is your turn to ask the other party or a witness questions, it is best to make the questions short and clear.  Make sure to ask questions of witnesses and not make statements.
  • A hearing has a set routine and procedure.
  • When an objection si made wait for the judge to rule on the objection before proceeding.
  • Take notes when the judge issues the ruling.  If you need clarification, it’s best to ask while still in the courtroom   It does little good to argue with a judge about a ruling and it is better to ask questions and seek clarification.


Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over eighteen years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement.


Representing Yourself in Wake County Family Court: Part 2

Wake County Local RulesThis is the second in a series of articles on representing yourself  in Wake County Family Court.  In Part 1 I gave a general overview.

Today we will talk about some very important rules…. the Wake County Local Rules.  I have watched many pro se litigants and very few seem to take the time to study the rules.   It’s a tired statement but true: you can’t expect to win the game if you don’t know the rules.

The local rules in Wake County for family law cases are built around the concept of a family court system that Wake County adopted some years ago.  The family court system is designed to increase efficiency, cause cases to go through the system faster, and set up rules about a range of issues from the beginning to the end of a case.

A close reading of the Wake County Local Rules will show you what each stage of the court process looks like.  The rules define what must happen before court such as the exchange of certain documents and affidavits.  They also explain how continuances are dealt with, the role of the case coordinators, and many other details are in the local rules such as the length of certain temporary hearings such as temporary child custody and temporary child support.

If you decide to represent yourself, I strongly urge you to create a notebook that you will keep for the sole purpose of having one place to go to for the local rules related to your case.  Use a three-ring binder and put a copy of the local rules in it.

Examine what claims are in your case and study the rules on each claim carefully and take notes and put those notes in the notebook too.  In a later article I will cover where you can find the law for your claim or defenses, and you should take notes and put that in your notebook too.



Scott Allen is a family law attorney with over eighteen years of experience in all areas of divorce practice in North Carolina.