General Question

MoaningMyrtle's avatar

Why am I terrified of going to court even though I have done nothing wrong?

Asked by MoaningMyrtle (115points) February 24th, 2011

My ex-husband passed away 12 years ago leaving our son a trust fund which I am guardian of. Since he turned 18 I need to go to court for a final release of my duties as he now is of age and is in control of his remaining assets.

As my husband wished (not in writing- he died unexpectedly without a will) I ensured that our son had an excellent education, attending private school and having extracirrucular sports that he would not have been able to have without his trust. He is now in an excellent University and on the deans list. He has worked hard and I am very proud of him.

Even though every penny spent was on my son for some inexplicable reason I am terrified to stand in front of the judge. I am obtaining duplicate records for the expenses and will type out reports. Adding to my angst some of the older originals appear to have been lost in a move.

The local judge is known for being extremely unpleasant. (he has been on the family court bench for many decades- I suppose I would be jaded too after seeing some of my friends messy divorces) and I don’t want to go in looking terrified.

I cannot afford a lawyer to do this for me and have to do it myself.

Has anyone ever been through this?

I do not have any idea what to expect.

Can anyone give me any advice here?

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17 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

You’re just going to him to obtain some documents and be released from control of the assets, right? (at least that’s what I gather from your question).

What’s the worst he could do besides be an unpleasant douche? He doesn’t have any reason to not give you the documents you are going in to get, correct? I’ve never been through a situation like this before, but as the son of divorced parents, I know how scary court can be, even if you aren’t there for doing anything wrong. With that in mind, I think you should just try not to worry about it too much. Go in there, say what you have to say, get through the red tape, and be done with it.

tedd's avatar

I would assume you’re nervous because you’ve probably never had to stand in front of a judge before and have him check to see if you’ve done something wrong. Its very nerve wracking.

But it sounds like you did exactly what you were supposed to do, and did a great job at it. I would suspect the judge will agree, regardless of how unpleasant his demeanor may be.

BarnacleBill's avatar

He’s not there to judge you, but to confirm that the trust was correctly executed on behalf of your son. It sounds like you have all the documentation needed, and can account for the funds. That’s all that’s going to be looked at.

It will be fine.

WasCy's avatar

Why not try to contact Legal Aid in your area and see if an attorney can help you pro bono. This seems right up their alley. This would be a great place for a beginning attorney to assist you with an uncomplicated case, save you some angst and get some court time. Win-win all around.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

WasCy had an excellent idea. Try it.

marinelife's avatar

If you cannot get help from Legal Aid, why not try a dress rehearsal. Court is open to all.

That should get you used to the surroundings and the procedures. Perhaps you can see your judge in action.

filmfann's avatar

It’s family court, not civil or criminal. Relax.
If the judge gives you any guff, point out how well your son has done, under your care.
Trust me, he will appreciate seeing a success story.

sarahjane90's avatar

I wouldn’t worry. He will probably just ask you some basic questions, look at your documents, and send you on your way.

LostInParadise's avatar

Are you being charged with an offense? If you are and can show that you can’t afford a lawyer, then you should be able to get a court appointed attorney.

JLeslie's avatar

The one time I appeared in front of a judge for myself (I had previously been a witness to a friends divorce and some other things that did not directly involve me) the judge started court by addressing the entire room saying, “no one is going to jail today so don’t be nervous.” But, of course it is understandable you are nervous. It is unfamiliar ground for you.

The answers above are good. The judge will see your pure and good intentions. If you do not have a document that he feels is required, I think he will give you time to attain it.

My husband went into INS nervous like crazy when we were married. A stack of paperwork, I think the gentleman we met with asked for one document. Mostly he just talked to us a little, I think he saw we were a little nervous, but also geniune, and our intention was to be prepared and forthwright.

john65pennington's avatar

I have been before countless judges of all types and races. Just remeber, they eat and breathe, just like you.

Have no fear. If your documents are in order, just answer any questions with a yes sir or no sir.

You will be fine. Be yourself.

blueiiznh's avatar

I can understand your anxiety and nervousness.
You are walking into a place where although you are all in order, you really do not hold any power. The control and power is in the Judge and the procedure.
As others have mentioned, go sit in a court room and observe. This will help you understand the etiquette and temperment.
Be honest, calm, make eye contact, and BE RESPECTFUL!
If you can get an aide to help pro-bono, this will help, but you will still have to go and answer questions.
I have gone in pro-se many times but the fact that you can walk in one way and have no clue on the outcome is undaunting.
It sounds like you have handled things up to this point with honest care and I suspect you will do fine.
Provide an update once done if possible.

Sunny2's avatar

The above answers are excellent. Visit court while it’s in session. You’ll get to know who the various people are (bailiff, court reporter etc.). You’ll see the procedures in action and how it all works. Go back a second time if it’s still scary. Find where the bathrooms are, where to get a drink of water or even a cup of coffee. Of course you’ll be nervous. Stand straight and look confident even if you’re shivering in your boots. I wish you the strength and faith to get you through it. You’ll be fine.

perspicacious's avatar

I’ve never heard of family court having jurisdiction over trusts; in the states I’m familiar with you would be going into probate court for this. Just take your documents and relax. If the judge has questions about anything he will ask you to supply further documentation. Are you sure this is a trust, or is it a gift under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act? Was your responsibility that of a trustee or a custodian?

This is my personal opinion, not legal advice.

Pattijo's avatar

Fear of the unknown , just try to relax and remember what your feeling is normal

MoaningMyrtle's avatar

By the way- the court went well, thank you everyone. The judge was happy and even smiled when my Son said he was an honors student at the university.

I really appreciate all your comforting words.

blueiiznh's avatar

This is wonderful to hear. Nice work. Thanks for the follow-up

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