Courtroom Demeanor

Virginia Online Divorce will provide all the necessary documents needed to perform your divorce. Once your forms are filed and you need to go to court, there are a few things you need to know.

Maintain proper courtroom demeanor while waiting for your case to be called. Do not chew gum, eat, drink, or smoke. Also, turn off your pager and cellular telephone before entering the room.  If you must communicate with a member of your group, write notes - even soft talk can distract the Commissioner and interrupt the hearing that may be going on before you get your turn. Never argue with the Commissioner, or interrupt anyone else who is talking. You can emphasize or repeat anything you think is important. Answer “yes” or “no” questions with “Yes, Your Honor” and “No, Your Honor.” Always thank the Commissioner at the conclusion of your case. 

The first thing that the Commissioner will ask you is your name. You should stand up, introduce yourself and say “Good morning, my name is _________. “I am the Plaintiff, and I am representing myself for a divorce.” This will let the Commissioner know you want a divorce and that you are not a lawyer. 

Either a court stenographer (person who records everything said in court) or a tape recorder will record the hearing. The Commissioner or the Clerk will swear you in and may take a few minutes to review your divorce complaint. The Commissioner will then ask you questions. 

You will only be asked simple questions, and you should know the answers in advance. Try not to be nervous, but do not worry if you are. It is common for people to be nervous in front of a judge or Commissioner. You will be asked about your marriage, why you want a divorce and what you want (for example, custody, if it has not been decided previously). Then the Commissioner will decide the issue(s) you have raised.

It is important to know that you and your corroborative witness should be very business-like in front of the Commissioner. You should try not to laugh or talk unnecessarily. The Commissioner wants to complete the hearing as quickly as possible (and so do you). The hearing should take approximately 10 minutes. 

There are certain things you must tell the Commissioner. It is very important that you be completely honest when responding to the questions, which will include the following: 

       1.  Your name and where you live.

       2.  Your spouse’s name and address.

       3.  When and where you were married.

       4.  Exactly when you separated from your spouse.

       5.  Names and ages of the children (if any) born to you and your spouse.

       6.  With whom the children are living if they are minors (under eighteen).

       7.  How long you have lived in Virginia (or current state of residence).

       8.  State what you want (a divorce).


            Here is a list of sample questions with some sample answers in parentheses: 

       1.  Please state your name and address

       2.  How long have you and/or your spouse been a resident of Virginia (or current state of residence)?

       3.  Has your residency been continuous? (Yes)

       4.  Did there come a time when you became married? (Yes)

       5.  To Whom?

       6.  When and where was that?

       7.  Can you identify this document? The marriage certificate is handed to you. (Yes, it is my marriage certificate, which I enter to the court as evidence)

       8.  Were there any children born of this marriage?

       9.  What are their names and ages?

      10.  Who has custody of the child(ren)?

      11.  When did you and your spouse separate?

      12.  Where were you living at the time of separation?

      13.  Who left?

      14.  Why did you separate? (We could not get along and agreed to go our separate ways)

      15.  Has this separation been voluntary, continuous, and uninterrupted for more than a (6 months) year? (Yes)

      16.  During the time of separation did you and your spouse resume any cohabitation? (No)

      17.  Are there any property rights for the court to settle? (No)

      18.  Is there any reasonable hope or expectation for reconciliation? (No)

      19.  Are you (or is your spouse) a fit and proper person to have custody of your minor child(ren)? (Yes)

Have provisions been made for the support of your minor child(ren)? (Yes, my spouse has agreed to pay me $150 a week which complies with the minimum Virginia Commonwealth Guidelines based upon our incomes)

      20.  Can you identify this document? The Virginia Child Support Worksheet is handed to you. (Yes, this is the Virginia Child Support Worksheet I completed previously, which I enter to the court as evidence)

      21.  Are you and your spouse both over the age of 18? (Yes)

      22.  Are either of you a member of the armed forces of the United States?


You (or the Commissioner/Judge) will ask the witness the following questions: 

      Please state your name and address.

      How long have you known the Plaintiff?

      Where does the Plaintiff live?

      How long has the Plaintiff been a resident of Virginia (or current state of residence)?

      Did there come a time when you learned that the parties separated?

      When and how did you learn about it?

      Do you have occasion to visit the Plaintiff?

      How often?

      Have you seen the Defendant or any evidence of his or her living there?

      Do you feel that there is any hope for reconciliation?

      Are the parties over the age of 18?

      Are either of the parties members of the armed forces of the United States?


End of Hearing 

It is extremely important that neither the Plaintiff nor the witness give any more information than asked for. There have been many cases in which the divorce did not go through because people talked too much. Picture this “Have you seen the Defendant or any evidence of his or her living there?” (Well, a lot of his clothes and his stereo are still there. And I have seen him over there a couple of times. Just a couple of months ago, he was over having breakfast with Ann). An answer like that could cause the Commissioner to stop or rescind the divorce action. This does not mean that you should lie, which is perjury. Just answer the questions simply and directly.

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