If two spouses are going through a divorce and cannot reach a mutual agreement despite many different efforts, going to court may be the only option. An understanding of what to expect if you have to go to trial can reduce stress and intimidation, since most people have never experienced going to trial. Divorce trial hearings take a lot of time, effort, and cost. You will be required to put effort into a lot of the work needed for your case and cannot expect your family law attorney to take care of everything for you. Laws differ by jurisdiction and by state, but here is what you can generally expect in a typical divorce court hearing.
There are four major issues that will be settled in divorce court:
– Child custody and visitation
– Child support
– Division of property
The more property that is between the couple (real estate, vehicles, vacation property, pensions, jewelry, etc.), the more complicated and lengthy the divorce process will be.
Once the case is filed, the length of time until the trial depends on the jurisdiction where the case is heard. Prior to the trial, specific deadlines must be met, including discovery, witness lists and mediation as order by a judge.
At the start of the case, each side will conduct discovery to determine the facts of the case. Each party will be required to answer written questions under oath, to be completed by a set deadline. Each side will have the opportunity to gather information about the other party, such as financial information, medical information, and parenting information. Each party may be asked to produce documents providing evidence of the discovery such as bank statements, receipts, diaries or notebook, and sometimes even a copy of computer hard drives. If discovery is not completed by the deadline given, you may lose your right to perform discovery and use this information for your case.
Prior to receiving a set date for your trial, there may be a short hearing on a motion for temporary relief, which is where an order will be discussed to grant either spouse temporary custody, visitation, child support, spousal support or a restraint to keep things calm until final settlement is decided. Before a trial date is set you may also be required to attend smaller, separate custody hearings.
While you wait for the trial date, you and your lawyer should be working together diligently to analyze all relevant documents to your case, line up witnesses, get property appraised, and analyze all of the numbers regarding separate and marital shares of all finances. You should also take this time to work on and perfect your testimony.
On the day of trial, you want to make sure you know how to get to the courthouse and that you arrive early. Be sure that your witnesses arrive early as well. When your case is called, you will move to the front of the courtroom, your witnesses will be sworn in, and then they will be directed to the hallway outside of the courtroom, under oath to not discuss their testimony with each other. They will then be called into the courtroom one at a time to testify.
The judge will then request that any preliminary matters be addressed, and the lawyers will discuss anything they need to with the judge right before getting started.
When the trial first begins, each side will present their opening statements. Witnesses will then be called, first by the party that filed for divorce. The witnesses are then cross-examined by the other side’s representation. If the opening party has any expert witnesses, they will also testify at this time.
The other party will then call witnesses one by one for testimony and cross-examination. When this is finished, the first side has the chance to call rebuttal witnesses. Objections will be made, and the judge will rule on them.
At this point, documents are presented into the case and admitted as evidence, or they are excluded from the case. Once this is all complete, each side will present their closing statements. If the trial has gone too long or over time, the judge may ask for written closing statements.
The trial can last from one day, to two, to even longer, and will start and finish at different times of the day. If your trail extends over one day, expect to be working late hours with your attorney on preparations for the next day’s statements, locating and preparing rebuttal evidence.
Depending on the case, the judge may make a ruling decision at the end of the hearing, or may take the matter “under advisement.” If the ruling isn’t given right away, you may have to come back to the court house to hear the rulings, or a law clerk may prepare a letter with the ruling and send it to both attorneys.
If you find that you want to take your divorce case to trial and need legal representation, contact a Glendale divorce attorney at The Sampair Group today.