Divorce Trial

Divorce Trial

If you are unable to resolve all of the outstanding issues in your Divorce Case, the remaining issues will need a Trial to be resolved. During a Trial, both sides will argue their positions during the hearing through opening and closing statements and evidence. The Judge may allow each side to give an “opening statement.” This is a brief summary of the case each party intends to present and is just a chance to give a short statement of the case. Then, the “moving party,” or the person who is trying to convince the Judge what orders should be issued, will usually testify first or call their first witness. 

When the Attorney for the Petitioner is finished questioning a witness, the Respondent’s Attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine the witness on the testimony he or she just gave. The Petitioner examines witnesses directly, presents other evidence, and then “rests.” It is then the Respondent’s Attorney who presents witnesses and evidence, asking questions on direct examination. Petitioner’s Attorney has an opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses. After which the Respondent’s Attorney, finished with examination of witnesses and presentation of evidence, also rests.

The evidence, in both oral and non-oral forms, is presented through witnesses who are put under oath. The Attorneys representing the parties do not testify in a case, the Lawyers merely facilitate the presentation of testimony from the witnesses. If deemed necessary to assure the presence of a witness or to compel the production of Documents at Trial, Subpoenas are issued to procure witnesses’ appearances in court and, if applicable, the Production of Documentary Evidence by use of a Subpoena Duces Tecum. Any person who fails to obey a Subpoena that has been served on him or her may be punished, or sanctioned, by the Court.

During your testimony, when either Attorney “objects” to a question posed to you, then immediately stop speaking until the Judge has ruled on the objection. On the one hand, if the Judge says “sustained,” then the Judge agrees with the objection and the question is not allowed — you do not have to answer the question. On the other hand, if the Judge says “overruled,” then the Judge disagrees with the objection and the question is permitted — you must answer the question. The Judge may also ask questions of you directly, so be prepared for that as well.

Overall, both sides will question their own witnesses and may also “cross-examine” (question) the other side’s witnesses to challenge each other’s evidence. Cross-examination is used to poke holes in the testimony and discredit the witness. Please note that this will likely be done to you, as it will be done to your spouse. Follow the following advice during cross-examination:

  • Never lie or provide misleading information.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked; do not be embarrassed or afraid to ask for a question to be rephrased or repeated.
  • Answer questions directly, and only provide explanations when prompted.
  • Take your time, but don’t ramble or go off-topic.

After all witnesses have testified, the Judge may allow each side to give a “closing statement.” This will give each side a chance to summarize why the Judge should rule in your favor after all evidence has been presented.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge may outline his final decision immediately, or the Judge may want to take some time to further consider the evidence and write up a written decision later. Judges can place the case as “under advisement” for up to 60 days before issuing their ruling. 

Overall, it is important to consider the following in preparing for a Trial:

  • Every true fact should be readily admitted. Do not stop to determine whether your answer will help or hurt either side. Just answer the questions to the best of your memory. Evading questions or telling fantastical stories will only hurt you. Lying about bad behaviors or downplaying their significance will cause more problems.
  • Unless certain, don’t say, “That’s all of the conversation” or “Nothing else happened.” Instead, say, “That’s all I recall,” or “That’s all I remember happening.” It may be that after more thought or another question, you will remember something important.
  • Hearings can take longer than expected and often start late—plan accordingly.
  • Dress professionally, even for virtual apparencies. Attire is business casual—no risqué outfits or excessive jewelry. It is very important to dress with respect when attending. This means no jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, flip-flops, tank tops, halter tops, very low-cut blouses, and the like. You do not necessarily have to be dressed in a business suit; it is merely important to show respect to the Court. 
  • From the moment you leave your residence, be aware of your demeanor. Be kind, courteous, and polite to everyone you encounter on your way to the Court; you never know whom you might encounter on your journey. Similarly, ALWAYS be professional before, during, and after your Courtroom appearance; you never know when someone is watching or listening. This also applies to anyone you bring to Court with you for support.
  • When referring to your spouse in Court, say “Mr./Mrs. Spouse’s last name” or “Wife said.” Try to avoid pronouns such as “she said…” or “she told me…” and avoid using first names for adults (it’s fine for Children).
  • Be aware of your Courtroom demeanor at all times-do not roll your eyes, speak out of turn, or comment after others speak. Do not speak to the Judge if he does not speak to you first. Have a positive attitude. Be even keeled, keeping your demeanor professional but relaxed.
  • Be prepared to hear things you may not like from the Judge or your spouse. Focus on your case and your Attorney. Judges have little sympathy for litigants who cannot keep their cool in a Courtroom. Always be courteous, even if the Judge or your spouse questioning you appears discourteous. Keep your cool.
  • The Court staff are a direct extension of the Judges. Treat them the same as you would the Judge, with professionalism and respect. Courtroom staff continues to observe the parties’ behavior and demeanor, even after the Judge leaves the Courtroom.
  • Treat your spouse with professionalism and respect as well.
  • Do not let your friends’ or family’s opinions and objectives affect your behavior. During this difficult time, surround yourself with positive people and do not discuss your case in detail with them. Your friends and family should not be whispering in your ear about how to handle your case; that’s between you and your Attorney.
  • ALWAYS turn off your cell phone before any Court appearance.