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What happens when I go to the courtroom?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created July, 2020

Check-in with the courtroom clerk when you arrive at the courtroom.

Give the clerk any documents you want the judge to look at. Also, give copies to the other parent or their lawyer.

If you do not have a copy, the clerk might ask you to make a copy.

Tell the clerk if you need an interpreter.

The clerk will tell you to stay in the courtroom until your case is called, or they may send you to the Probation Office.

Ask the clerk where to stand when your case is called. In most courts, you stand behind one table and the other parent stands behind a different table.

The judge will say the name of the case when they want you to come up. The name of the case is often your name versus the name of the other parent.

The judge will review the papers in your court file. They will ask each of you to say what you need the judge to do.

How do I speak to the judge?

Speak directly to the judge. Tell them what you need them to do. Explain why you need them to do it.

Do not talk directly to the other parent.

If the other parent says something you do not agree with, wait to tell the judge when it is your time to speak.

Do not interrupt the judge when they are talking.

Do not interrupt the other parent when they are talking to the judge. The judge will give you a chance to respond to what the other parent says.

When does the judge make a decision?

The judge listens to both parties and reviews the papers in your case.

The judge may make a decision the same day. You will get a copy of their decision before you leave the court.

If the judge says they are “taking the case under advisement,” they will make their decision later. You will get a copy of their decision in the mail.

Sometimes the judge needs more information to make a decision: They may ask other agencies like the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) for records.

They may make a temporary order until they get the information they need or they may decide they cannot order anything until they get more information.

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