Here are some things you might like to know before heading into court.
- Iowa practices a “one family, one judge” philosophy. That means that barring any unforeseen circumstances, your hearings will be in the same courtroom, with the same judge every time.
- Parking can be a challenge downtown, so plan to arrive early. The on street, metered parking near the courthouse has a two-hour limit. The Hy-Vee parking ramp is free for the first two hours and $3.00 for every hour after that. Ramps tend to be around $1/hour. You will not be able to go “feed the meter” during a hearing, so ask your attorney how long the hearing will be so you can plan appropriately. Click here for parking ramp locations, and here if you are interested in a Smart Card parking card. The advantage to the card is that you can put the maximum time into the meter, and then “reload” whatever time is left back on to your card.
- Children can attend their hearings; in some cases, the judge may require you to bring them. If they attend, you may want to have another adult there who can take the child out if the judge asks you to do that (if, for example, the judge wants to hear information that s/he does not believe would be appropriate for the child to hear). Let the guardian ad litem know if you plan to bring the kids.
- You will sit at counsel table with your attorney. There are microphones at counsel table that are fairly sensitive, however, so if you need to speak to your attorney privately, you may want to turn away from the microphone and speak quietly.
- If you are incarcerated, you may still be allowed to attend the hearing in person or by telephone. If you attend in person, you will be accompanied by law enforcement, who will remain in the courtroom. You may be allowed to meet with your attorney prior to the hearing in a secure room. You will be allowed to sit at counsel table with your attorney.
- Juvenile court is a bit more informal than other courts. The judge may ask you some questions. One of the questions s/he may ask is if there are any other services you need to be successful. These may be financial, or services such as therapy, or even things like bus tokens to get to various appointments. You can also talk to your attorney about what you need.
- Wear your “poker face.” Do not allow anyone to provoke you in the courtroom, do not “get into it” with the other parent (or anyone else), and do not give people the “stink eye” in court. The judge will see all this, and will not like it. In other words, be civil and polite, in order to give the judge the best impression of you possible.
- Your attorney is your advocate; if you’re having trouble with something, or are having trouble getting hold of DHS, call your attorney. Yes, they represent you in court, but they can do that much more effectively if they know what else is going on.
- If you fail a drug test, quit going to therapy, or fail to do something else the court or DHS has asked you to do, tell your attorney when it happens (don’t wait until right before the hearing). Your attorney cannot “tell on you,” because of attorney/client privilege (though these things will likely come out anyway), but s/he can help you get back on track faster.
- You don’t have to be perfect. But you do have to substantially comply with what you are being asked to do.
Other questions? You will likely meet with your attorney when the date of the hearing approaches. Write down your questions, and when you meet with your attorney ask him or her to answer them.