Do I Want My Divorce Case to Go to Trial?
Contested divorces are always stressful and extremely challenging, but divorce trials can take pressure levels to a new level. Perhaps the biggest source of anxiety is the uncertainty that divorce trials involve. When an individual and their ex-spouse cannot agree on the division of property, and child custody, it falls to a Judge to decide on their behalf based on the cases presented.
This inevitably means that at least one party will not get what they want. Individuals effectively give up control over their affairs and the option to negotiate in return for a binding, final ruling.
That in itself can bring a sense of relief, especially when negotiations have been lengthy and all-consuming. However, it is important to put forward the most compelling case possible in your favor with the aim that the Judge will agree with your perspective.
Doing so requires support, guidance, and expertise, and that means working with a divorce attorney that takes the time to understand the unique nature of your case and always has your best interests at the heart of everything they do.
Speak to an Attorney from Skillern Firm About Your Divorce
Whether you require help with avoiding taking your divorce to court, want to explore the options available to you, or have any other questions, the legal team at Skillern Firm is here to help.
We will ensure you always understand the options available to you, help form an action plan for peace of mind and represent you and your interests through negotiations, mediation, and, where required, in front of a Judge.
Speak to a member of our team now by calling us at 936-213-8479.
Divorce Trial Cases
If you’re thinking, ‘do I want my divorce case to go to trial?’, it is worth considering that very few divorces ultimately appear in front of a Judge. From the simplest to the most complex, most divorce cases reach a settlement between all parties before they head to trial.
In many cases, a divorce lawyer will actively look to reach some form of settlement, and a trial is typically not in the interests of anyone involved. The nature of family law means that there are always numerous opportunities to reach an amicable settlement, no matter the differences between the soon-to-be former spouses.
Your lawyer will guide you throughout. If there is any opportunity to settle either before or after filing a court case, they will make you aware of the option and advise on whether settling makes sense.
Indeed, a Judge may consult with your lawyer on the trial date as they pursue one final opportunity to conclude the divorce process before the trial begins.
What to Expect If You Go to Court
Taking a divorce to trial could be considered a literal last resort. Standing in front of a Judge alongside your former spouse risks both parties being disappointed. However, it goes without saying that some aspects of a marriage cannot be settled. Divorces cannot go on forever, and when it becomes clear that neither side is willing to concede on certain points, it becomes necessary for a Judge to intervene.
It is important to remember that just because a divorce goes to trial, that does not mean that both parties give up all rights to independent agreements. For example, suppose a previously married couple can decide how to split the marital home but cannot agree on asset division. In that case, a court will respect the decisions taken on the home in a partial settlement and address only the remaining issues.
Before Attending the Divorce Hearing
While it is easy to fixate on the stressful nature of going to court to finalize a divorce, much of the most difficult work takes place before the trial begins. One of the most significant tasks facing you and your attorney will be gathering evidence to support your case. Depending on what is to be discussed and ruled on at the divorce trial, this may involve significant paperwork and the identification of numerous third-party witnesses.
Certain evidence can become deeply personal. A Judge may wish to see bank statements, tax returns, and other financial statements. If there are disagreements surrounding possessions, a court might need to see statements from property appraisers to establish values.
Your attorney will typically ensure that you are always thorough in evidence collection. Any statements made to a Judge concerning financial matters without documentation and other evidence to back them up often become irrelevant.
Both you and your spouse may be deposed before the trial. This involves an interview where the answers are recorded. While your attorney can attend a deposition with you, it is relatively unusual for them to speak on your behalf. Instead, their role typically involves interviewing other parties, who will also typically speak for themselves.
When children are involved, they might also be interviewed, particularly if any of the issues over which the court has jurisdiction involve child custody.
Do consider that even when a court appearance seems inevitable, there is always time to reach an agreement before the trial starts. Indeed, in many cases, the closer you and the other party get to the courtroom, the more likely it is that an agreement will be reached.
One of the driving factors behind this increased likelihood stems from when lawyers conduct discovery. As evidence is gathered and submitted, the respective attorneys can assess what is being submitted. This may give them a clearer picture of the likely outcome than they have had previously. Crucially, they can help you consider whether the settlement offer available, if any, is likely to be better for you than what a Judge might decide.
You are required to identify and notify witnesses in advance of the trial date. If you elect to appoint expert witnesses, you should be prepared to inform the court of what you expect them to say. For other third-party witnesses, you should ensure that they are aware of what they are likely to be asked and that your attorney understands how they will respond.
The evidence presented in court must also be organized and submitted. Both attorneys present, along with the Judge, will often have their own copies of documentary evidence to refer to as the trial proceeds. This means that it is not only vital to ensure your evidence stands up to cross-examination but that it is easy to find specific information in a timely manner.
The Pretrial Conference
The court may require both parties to attend a pretrial conference to discuss preliminary matters. There, each spouse can inform the court of the issues that a Judge must settle. This is another opportunity to reach some level of agreement before the trial officially begins.
The court already has power and influence before the trial starts. For example, they may require you and the opposing party to attend a settlement conference. These conferences are typically overseen by a retired Judge and serve as another opportunity to settle. Of course, this time, both parties have the benefit of doing so in the presence of someone that is likely to think in the same way as the Judge in the courtroom.
Attending Divorce Trials
If all else fails and a divorce trial is the only way to draw a close to proceedings, it goes without saying that it is vital to know where you need to be and when and to ensure you arrive in plenty of time. You and your attorney should also ensure the same applies to witnesses.
The trial begins with an opening argument from each side. These opening statements provide each side with the opportunity to outline what they hope to achieve and why in front of the Judge that will ultimately make the final order.
The focus then shifts to the spouse that filed for divorce, who can commence proceedings by introducing their first witness. These witnesses are typically called into the courtroom one by one, and the first spouse will speak to all of their witnesses in turn. However, the opposing attorney can carry out a cross-examination at each stage, and there is also the possibility of further testimony as a result of that cross-examination.
Once all of the first party’s witnesses have spoken and been cross-examined, the process repeats from the other side. Once completed, the first party may call rebuttal witnesses where relevant.
The evidence submission phase follows this. Most people in the courtroom will already be familiar with the bulk of the evidence following a pre-trial hearing or other discussions, but this is the part of the trial where documentation is either accepted or excluded. A Judge may also question both parties at this stage.
Finally, both sides may submit closing arguments. A Judge might decide to hear verbal closing arguments. However, they also have the option to request that each closing argument is submitted in writing, particularly if the divorce trial has reached near the end of the day.
Time permitting, the Judge may notify all parties of their final decision. With every case being unique, it is impossible to predict when the final decision might be made ahead of time. Some cases start and finish on the same day. Others may involve multiple days in court, and it could take a Judge days or even weeks to make a decision.
The Final Order
The end of the trial does not mean the end of the process. One attorney will write the ruling into court orders. In some cases, all decisions are pulled into a single order as a Final Divorce Decree.
Unsurprisingly, there is an immediate opportunity to appeal. However, those wishing to lodge such an appeal must do so quickly.
If there are no objections and both attorneys agree with the wording used in the relevant orders, the divorce is finalized as soon as the Judge signs it.
Following the Final Ruling
That is the end of the trial, but it is unlikely to be the end of the work required of you and your attorney. The final judgment will typically legally compel both parties to carry out certain tasks. That might involve the transfer or disposal of property, adherence to a new parenting plan, or a multitude of other requirements.
When you’re represented by a family law attorney from Skillern Firm, we’ll ensure you have the right support and guidance before, during and after the trial.
Our Attorneys Will Help You Through the Divorce Process
It is not always in the best interests of anyone involved in the divorce process to go to trial. There will be plenty of opportunities to settle prior to standing before a trial judge. However, some divorces are impossible to settle, and there is no other option.
Whether you are still exploring your options or you feel that a divorce trial is inevitable, you can benefit from the knowledge and experience of a skilled divorce attorney. We’ll guide you through all the basic steps and be there if and when you go to trial, from the opening statement to the finalization of your divorce.
Every case is unique, and at Skillern Firm, we take great pride in providing a personalized legal service to suit any case. From ensuring you are aware of your options at every stage to potentially making a closing statement on your behalf, we will be there when you need us.
Call our team today to find out more about how we can help at 936-213-8479.