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When many people hear the word “trial” they think of criminal proceedings where a jury decides the fate of the defendant. However, when an agreement can’t be reached between a divorcing couple, they may participate in a trial to settle issues surrounding property division, child custody and support, alimony, and any other matters that need to be addressed. If your divorce is going to trial, it’s critical to have the best divorce lawyers by your side.

Settling Disputes Out of Court

Having a lawyer negotiate a settlement with your spouse is typically a more expedient and affordable way to settle divorce disputes than going to trial. It’s important to keep in mind that going to court can be a lengthy, costly process. Your divorce attorney and child support lawyer may be able to negotiate a divorce and custody/support settlement agreement without ever going to court.

Steps to Take Before Trial

1. Discovery

Each party must share all evidence with the other side to ensure everyone can prepare for trial without surprises before the court date. Typically, the hearing officer or judge holds a pretrial conference and sets a deadline for discovery to be completed. You must name the witnesses who will testify and will have an opportunity to object to any evidence the other side proposes to submit.

2. Depositions

Generally, a deposition is a fact-finding mission in which the deponent (the person being deposed) answers questions under oath in front of a court reporter before the trial begins. Lawyers may ask a wide range of open-ended questions to discover more facts that may be of use in the trial or in trying to settle the case. Subpoenas may be issued to summon witnesses such as friends, family, acquaintances, and experts to testify in a deposition.

3. Trial Preparation

It’s important for your attorney to properly prepare you for the deposition and trial. You will not only be prepared as a witness; your lawyer will advise you on how to conduct yourself in and out of the courtroom. Your attorney will ask you questions you might hear from opposing counsel or the hearing officer or judge and may advise you about other details specific to your case. For issues like alimony and child support, there are certain factors that the court must consider. It’s important to be prepared to address each and every one of them. Your attorney may also continue to negotiate with your spouse’s lawyer to try and hash out issues before trial.

The Trial

On the first day of the trial, witnesses are sworn in, and the hearing officer or judge will ask the attorneys if they have any preliminary matters to discuss. Once that’s taken care of, opening statements begin. The lawyer for the party who filed for divorce (plaintiff) then calls the first witness to testify. After the plaintiff’s attorney is finished asking questions, the opposing counsel conducts a cross-examination. The plaintiff’s attorney may then ask some more questions on redirect. This process continues until all of the plaintiff’s witnesses have testified, including expert witnesses and the plaintiff.
The other side then calls its witnesses for testimony and cross-examination. Throughout the process, evidence is presented, and the attorneys will most likely raise objections that will be sustained or overruled by the hearing officer or judge. After all, witnesses have testified and all evidence is presented, each side presents a closing argument. Once this phase of the trial is over, the hearing officer or judge issues a written ruling and sends it to both attorneys.

The Order

In a divorce trial, the hearing officer will issue a Report and Recommended Order. If either party takes issue with the Recommended Order, that party may file what is called exceptions. The Recommended Order then goes to a judge for a ruling. If neither party objects to the hearing officers, Recommended Order, it is signed by a judge into an actual Order of Court. Once the judge signs a divorce Decree, you are legally divorced. Barring any motions for reconsideration or appeal, the specifics of the orders must be carried out.
Do you need assistance with divorce or another legal issue? Our experienced team of affordable child custody lawyers, divorce attorneys, domestic violence defense lawyers, and family estate planning attorneys can help.