What’s the Proper Courtroom Etiquette if I Evict My Daughter?


Dear Penny,

I am planning to evict/eject my adult daughter if nothing changes. I’m wondering about the etiquette for such a court hearing.

If it’s at a physical court, would it be wrong for us to walk in together? If it’s virtual, should we be in the same room? When speaking, should I refer to my daughter as “the defendant”, “Jane Smith”, “Jane”, or “Miss Smith”? Should I look at her during the hearing? If she starts crying, should I turn away?

Once the court orders my daughter to leave, do I have a window in which to enforce that? If she seems to be getting her act together, I might not kick her out right away, but then might I have to start the process over again if she doesn’t leave? What if she later comes to visit and then won’t leave, claiming to live here? I can’t seem to find clear answers to these questions.


Dear V.,

I doubt it matters much to a judge whether you walk into court with your daughter together or separately. If the hearing is held remotely, you can check with your local court about the rules for virtual proceedings. Bear in mind, though, that defendants often don’t show up for eviction hearings, so all of this may be a moot point.

As for how to behave in court: You’re a parent first and a plaintiff second. You can refer to your daughter by her first name or simply “my daughter” if that’s what you’re most comfortable doing. I can’t really say what the proper reaction is if she starts to cry. What I will say, though, is that I don’t think you’re expected to be stone-faced at such an emotional time.

The rules for evictions vary widely by city and state. So for questions about things like whether there’s an enforcement window and what happens if your daughter visits or refuses to leave, you’ll need to consult with a local attorney.

However, I think you’re focusing too much on what happens on the actual day of the proceeding. What happens afterward is a lot more…


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