What to Expect From Your Divorce Trial

Unhappy couple going through break-up

Most divorces get settled via a mediation process. However, if the warring spouses fail to reconcile over high-value property disputes, or the divorcing spouses find it impossible to compromise, It becomes necessary to settle the case in court. Before going to trial, resolving the divorce in a partial settlement is essential where the spouses agree on some disagreements via mediation and leave the rest to the judge.

The Process Before Trial

The divorce process includes various steps before the trial. The first step is for the spouses to file a divorce petition, respond to the petition, attend the temporary hearings and organize index records. A brief hearing is necessary as it helps the warring spouses resolve immediate issues before a permanent resolution is reached. The quick hearing process will determine the temporary custody arrangement for couples with children. However, less than 1% of civil lawsuits will end up before a judge.

Once the temporary hearing goes through, warring parties may opt to settle their divorce via mediation. Mediation is a cost-effective and reliable option for those spouses who wish to minimize conflicts. If the mediation process fails to reach a consensus, or if the warring spouses fail to resolve their issues through mediation, a divorce trial is considered the last option.

About the Divorce Trial

When the divorce goes to trial, a lawyer presents the case to the judge in the formal trial court proceedings. The judge is responsible for listening to each spouse’s claim and making the necessary decisions regarding spousal support, property division, and child custody.

The Divorce Trial Process

The Petitioner Presents

For a spouse who files a divorce, the petitioner presents the case first to the judge. The presentation includes index records of crucial documents regarding assets, finances, children, properties, and anything pertinent to the marriage.

The Respondent Presents

Once the petitioner presents, the other spouse, usually the respondent, must submit documents before the judge in court. Each spouse may hire an attorney who represents them in court proceedings.

Witnesses Appear

Each party calls witnesses to testify on their behalf. Witnesses may include friends, neighbors, co-workers, and parties who know both spouses. Witnesses might include nannies, daycare instructors, and teachers if the spouses have children. The witness may vouch for either spouse’s shortcomings or capabilities, and the opposing spouse has the opportunity to examine each witness.

Petitioner’s Rebuttal and Closing Arguments

The petitioner has the opportunity to reply to the points put forward by the respondent in a brief rebuttal. Once the witnesses have spoken and all documents are presented, each party is given a chance to make closing arguments. It is the point where the warring parties summarize the evidence presented before a judge.

The Judgment

The trial concludes once the judge offers a final verdict on the case. The judgment includes key aspects in divorce, including asset division and child custody. The final decision is recorded in an official document, and each party must sign it. The divorce will be final once the judge and spouses sign the final judgment.

Steps the Spouses Should Take if the Divorce Goes to Trial

Keep the Emotions in Check

If the divorce reaches trial, the warring spouses must be prepared for potential fallout, stress, and emotions. A judge has to put testimony and financial statements into consideration. Such testimony may come from shared friends or family members of either spouse. Forcing friends to choose sides in a divorce trial is stressful for friends and both spouses. For the trial to be successful, witnesses have to give testimony followed by cross-examination. The warring parties may discredit or defend the ex-spouse’s witnesses and their stories.

Ensure All the Required Documents Are Compiled

Spouses do not want to search for documents and realize the tax returns from 5 years are missing. Include paychecks from various sources over the last year and organized index records. Those who are self-employed are required to provide income tax returns. Document the payment receipts and compile any other information which establishes the joint net worth, income, and other spouse’s income.

Meet the Attorney Beforehand

Seek a lawyer from time to time to offer guidance and to double-check what is required to be said in court proceedings. An individual may speculate on various angles the ex-spouse may take to swing the case in their favor.

Warring spouses who have the urge to settle their divorce proceedings through trial are advised to be prepared. Hiring a seasoned attorney is essential regardless of the complexity of the divorce process.