If I start crying in court, will that help my case?
This is a good question. An old and frequently asked question, but still a good question.
The answer is: maybe, but I wouldn’t risk it. Why?
1) Lying is wrong. I hate lying, insincerity, weasel words, and B.S. Family law cases are awash in all of it. Judges know this. They witness it every day. Every single day without respite. They come to expect to be lied to. They thus often believe they’re being lied to even when you’re telling them them the truth. They can’t be blamed for feeling this way. If anyone believes that lying his/her way to success in court is a winning formula, then he/she deserves to lose, and I hope he/she does lose. Lying in court ruins it for everyone who is telling the truth.
2) Sometimes crying works, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on your “audience”. Some judges are just plain suckers for the weeping and the waterworks. They subscribe to the “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth” (Benjamin Disraeli) school of thought. Other judges take offense at crying, feeling as though you are trying to exploit their emotions, to play upon their sympathy. These are the judges who see crying the way Jean Giraudoux did (“The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”
Yes, sometimes crying works, but most of the time everyone in the room sees it—clearly and unequivocally—for what it is: fake. Most crying in family law court is fake (not all, but most). Therefore, even if you show genuine emotion in court, odds are that the court will believe you’re faking it. Crying is a gamble with worse than even odds. Even if your emotion is genuine, odds are your judge will perceive it as feigned. Don’t cry in court, if you can help it.
3) Most people aren’t convincing actors, and their staged crying is pretty easy to spot. Not a judge on earth likes being manipulated or played, so when confronted with crying, they err on the side of disbelief. I rarely see crying work in court.
4) If self-interest, rather than truth, is your guiding principle, then don’t fake the crying because the odds of success are too slim to warrant the risk.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277