You may attempt to settle divorce-related matters through negotiations with your spouse. Unfortunately, working through your differences might not lead to a favorable resolution of your case. If you and your spouse can’t agree, your divorce may go to trial.
A judge will listen to and weigh information presented by you and your spouse at trial. After hearing both sides, they will make a final decision concerning unresolved issues. The judge will base their determination on the facts, which is why it is important to thoroughly prepare for trial, knowing what you’re going to say, what evidence you’re going to produce, and who you will call as witnesses.
Why a Case Would Go to Trial
Not all divorce cases must be heard in court. Most are settled outside of it.
The few cases that do go to trial are those where the couple could not reach an agreement through negotiations. Because the divorce cannot be finalized until all unresolved matters are settled, the court will schedule a trial date, allowing a judge to decide the outcome.
Matters that the judge may resolve at trial include, but are not limited to:
The court will only set a trial date after all other options have been explored and have failed. Even then, the court may direct the couple to confer before the trial starts to make one more attempt at negotiating settlements.
Preparing for Trial
If your case is to be heard in court, much needs to be done before the trial date.
Some of the pre-trial processes may include:
- Completing and submitting various forms: The court may have specific documents you need to fill out.
- Preparing a trial brief: The brief details of the matters you and your spouse have worked out together, any outstanding issues, and how you would like to resolve your case.
- Preparing an exhibit binder: The exhibit binder contains copies of documents or objects you want to produce to support and illustrate your points.
- Submitting a witness list: The witness list identifies people you plan to have testify at your trial. They can be friends, family members, coworkers, or others who can attest to your character. They may also be experts who can talk about more technical matters such as abuse.
The Day of Trial
You can expect several things to happen when your divorce trial begins. First, these matters are heard by a judge only. You won’t be presenting information to a jury.
Next, you (or your attorney) may have the opportunity to make opening statements. You will summarize your position and the issues that need to be resolved. You may also briefly talk about what witnesses you are going to call and the evidence you plan on presenting. You are not trying to prove that your divorce is warranted (California is a no-fault divorce state). Instead, you are presenting laws and facts to demonstrate to the judge why your requests are valid.
Your spouse may also give an opening statement.
Lastly, you (or your lawyer) will present your case. You must follow the rules of evidence when calling witnesses or directing the judge to look at exhibits. Your spouse’s attorney may cross-examine your witnesses or challenge documents or other information you give. You may also do the same when it’s your spouse’s turn to present their case.
The Final Decision
After you and your spouse have made your arguments, the judge will determine how to settle your divorce. When making their decision, the judge will comply with the law and what they consider fair.
The judge might not see things the same way you do and can make a judgment that you disagree with. Even so, once the final order is made, it is legally binding, and you must adhere to it. Otherwise, your spouse could take legal action and have the court compel you to comply.
Discuss Your Case with a Lawyer
Much is involved when your divorce is set for trial. Developing your arguments, gathering evidence, and identifying witnesses takes a lot of work. This can be an exhausting process on top of an already emotional experience.
Although settling your divorce through negotiations with your spouse can be less costly and time-consuming and better for you in the long run (you have more control over how differences are decided), sometimes trial can’t be avoided.
Our San Diego lawyers can relieve some of the burdens of going to court by taking care of the legal details for you.
To learn more about how we can help, please call us at (619) 567-6704 or submit an online contact form today.