What Happens in a Divorce Trial?

If you are going through a divorce, there is a chance that your case may go to trial. This is often the last resort when spouses can’t agree on some or all of the aspects of their divorce. Divorces can get complicated, especially when children or a large amount of assets are involved. If you think your divorce may be headed for trial, it’s important to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

We’re going to explore what you can expect during a divorce trial and answer some frequently asked questions about the topic.

What to Expect During a Divorce Trial

When your divorce goes to trial, you can expect your attorney and your spouse’s attorney to present your individual cases to the judge. The lawyer for the spouse who filed for divorce first (plaintiff) generally presents their case first in the proceedings, followed by the defendant. After the judge hears both sides and considers all the elements of the case, including witness testimony, he will make a decision that will impact both parties.

There are several steps that your divorce trial will take starting with the pretrial preparations. This is an important step in the process because this is when you will present all your documents to your attorney. You want to deliver all requested documents and make sure all documents are accurate.

Opening Statements

When the trial begins, both parties will present their opening statements. Your attorney will lay out your case and highlight the issues that you want the court to address. Evidence will also be presented which can include:

  • Documents
  • Photographs
  • Witness Testimony

Witness & Expert Testimony

There are two types of witnesses that can testify, fact witnesses and expert witnesses. Fact witnesses will testify about what they have personally observed. Any expert witnesses will discuss the special skills that they bring to the case to help explain the evidence. Expert testimony can significantly impact the court’s decision. Your attorney will determine the order of witnesses and experts who will testify.

Once the plaintiff’s attorney finishes questioning each witness, the defendant’s attorney has a chance to ask questions during cross-examination. The defense will also have a chance to present their own witnesses. The plaintiff’s attorney will later have a chance to conduct a cross-examination.

Legal Arguments

During the trial, both attorneys will present legal arguments to support their cases. These arguments will interpret the lawyer, challenge evidence, as well as present case precedents that pertain to the case.

Guardians’ ad Litem

If guardian ad litem is appointed by a judge, they will represent the interests of any children involved in the case. They will generally testify about child custody and visitation. This can include child evaluations as well. This testimony typically concludes with a recommendation about what is in the children’s best interests.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence has been presented, both parties will present their closing arguments. This is the final chance to persuade the judge to rule in your favor. During closing arguments, your attorney will summarize your case, highlight your strengths, and discuss any weaknesses your spouse’s attorney may have presented.

Judge’s Decision

Following the closing arguments, the judge will make a ruling. It will be communicated in writing and include instructions regarding the specifics of the case. After reviewing the judge’s decision, you can speak with your attorney about any post-trial proceedings, and the possibility of appealing.

FAQ About Divorce Trials

What Will the Judge Rule on in a Divorce Trial?

The issues a judge can rule on in a divorce trial can include alimony, child support, child visitation, and property division. The judge will only on issues that you and your spouse cannot agree on at the time of trial. Sometimes, both parties can agree on splitting assets, but not on alimony or post-divorce parenting.

How long can I expect my divorce trial to last?

Several factors will impact the length of your divorce trial. The court’s schedule, the number of witnesses, and the complexity of your case can determine how long your trial will take. Some just take a day while others can drag on for weeks. Depending on the court’s availability, a two-week trial could last for months.

When will the judge rule?

The judge has 120 days from the last day of the trial to issue a decision.

Can I prevent my divorce from going to trial?

Trial is the last resort for many divorce cases that cannot be resolved. To avoid going to court, you can try to come to an agreement with your spouse, have your attorneys come to an agreement, or talk with your spouse with both lawyers present. This can help you avoid the time and expense of a divorce trial.

Final Thoughts

If you have tried to resolve issues with your spouse and cannot come to an agreement, a divorce trial may be unavoidable. Your trial will consist of opening arguments, witness and expert testimony, legal arguments, closing arguments, and ultimately the judge’s decision. If you do not agree with the decision, you have the right to appeal. Having an experienced divorce lawyer by your side can make the process go smoother and ensure a fair trial. Please do not hesitate to give me a call: Bill @ 714.841.1931.