Going to Court
Gaston County Child Support Court occurs on Wednesdays, in Courtroom 4-A. The morning session begins at 8:30 and the afternoon session begins at 1:30. Court begins at 9:00 and 2:00 and the Child Support Agent must have sufficient time prior to court for case discussions, if needed. When you arrive in the courtroom, please immediately sign in on the sheets on the table near the front of the courtroom so that your Child
Support agent will know you are present if s/he needs to discuss your case.
Once your case has been scheduled for a hearing in court, certain preparations are necessary to ensure that the judge has all the available information to make a correct decision. Child Support court is a formal process. Your participation must conform to the protocol established by the judge.
Preparing to Go to Court
Collect and arrange all your supporting documents. If you are going to depend on documentary evidence to support your claim that support is owed, you should arrange your information in a logical manner. These may include rental agreements, medical bills or letters written by the supporting parent which reflect paternity, agreement to support, and acknowledgments of being behind in support payments. Documents written by others not present to testify will be considered "hearsay" and will not be admitted.
Dress appropriately. Court is supposed to be a formal and dignified process affecting significant matters in your and your child's life. Dress as if you are going on an important job interview to show you respect the significance of the court process.
Make arrangements for child care. Court is not a place for children, especially infants and toddlers. They get restless, tired, and bored. Then they become disruptive. This is not an occasion for visitation with the other parent, and the kind of information discussed in court may be inappropriate and/or emotionally disturbing for the child. Most judges will require you to take them out in the hallway.
Make sure you are on time. Because the number of cases is usually very large, being on time is critical, because the process may move fast, and skip to last cases where the parties are not present when they are called. If you are forced to be late, try to call the clerk to inform the agent and judge.
Do not bring friends or family. Moral support is nice to have, but extra people in the courtroom leads to disruption. Because of the large number of cases, seating will be crowded just for those required to be there. Spectators take up needed seats. If you must have someone bring you,
arrange for them to wait outside of the courtroom.
Guidelines for Appearing in Court
Try to be patient. Court takes some time because of the large number of cases. Be patient. Complaining about the time involved only causes disruptions and delays.
Do not engage in idle conversation with other parties. Excess noise makes it difficult for the judges, lawyers and clerks to hear. Also, making comments about other cases when they are heard simply causes disruptions and delays.
Make sure your Agent and lawyer know you are present. Sign in at the front of the courtroom and when your name is called answer loudly. Give them the materials or information you feel important to your case before you are called to testify.
Testify clearly and to the point. The lawyer will ask the questions. Try to answer without being argumentive. Unnecessary testimony takes valuable time, confuses the issues, and may prejudice the judge against you. Testifying is an arguing manner, or about matters not directly relevant to your support case is disruptive, accomplishes nothing, and may result in you being held in contempt.
Do not argue. Court proceedings frequently are stressful. Frustrations come to the surface and you may feel strongly that this is the one opportunity to "settle" all kinds of issues. Arguing with the other parents, new girlfriends, or boyfriends, workers, lawyers and the judge may help
frustration, but certainly not your case. These arguments are disruptive, cause delays, and may result in you being arrested, fined or jailed for contempt. It is guaranteed that they will not help your case. Disagreeing with the judge about a decision should be handled through the lawyers,
and the judge's decision will not be changed by your arguing with the judge. As disappointed as you may be, do not argue with the judge.
Turn off all cell phones before entering the courtroom. If your phone makes a noise of any kind in the courtroom, the deputy will take your phone from you and you will not be able to retrieve until the end of the business day. If your phone rings when the judge is on the bench, you could be found in contempt.