What to Expect if Your Divorce Goes to Trial
Although most divorces are settled through mediation outside of court, this is not always the case. Sometimes the relationship between people becomes so broken that they are unable to reconcile on anything. Whether it’s because of disputes over high-value property or simply because the divorcing parties find compromise impossible, it can become necessary to get a courtroom and a judge involved.
One option to consider before going to trial to settle your divorce is a partial settlement, where you and your ex-spouse settle some, but not all, of your disagreements through mediation and leave the rest up to a judge. This would give you more control over the outcomes than if everything were settled in the courtroom. Additionally, if your case does end up going to trial, it’s likely that you will also have to attend hearings throughout the process so the judge can make temporary decisions on how things will be handled until the time comes for your official trial.
If your divorce goes to trial, you need to be prepared for the stress, the emotions, and the potential fallout. Divorce trials don’t actually go the way they look on television. A judge will take things like financial statements and testimonies into consideration. Testimonies often come from family members of either party, but more importantly, they often come from shared friends. Forcing your friends to choose sides in a divorce trial can be very stressful for both you, your ex-spouse, and the friends themselves, so it’s an important aspect to consider before taking your divorce to the courtroom. A good part of the trial will consist of these witnesses giving testimonies followed by cross-examination, in which you will attempt to defend against or discredit your ex-spouse’s witnesses and their stories.
There are many steps you should take to prepare if your divorce is going to go to trial:
- Make sure you have all the necessary documents at least a few days out. You don’t want to wait until the night before only to realize you can’t find your tax returns from 5 years ago.
- Keep your emotions in check. You don’t want to get emotional while on the stand.
- Meet with your attorney to double check that you know everything that will be asked of you during the trial and that you are aware of everything you should and should not say. You can also speculate on angles your ex-spouse might take in order to swing things in their favor.
Something people don’t normally think about during divorce trials is what can and cannot be used as evidence. For example, many people enter their divorce proceedings hoping to be able to use outside conversations as testimony, but this is actually considered hearsay and cannot be taken into consideration in a court. There are some exceptions to the no-hearsay rule, but for the most part, outside conversations cannot be used as evidence. This is because if the conversations did not occur under oath and weren’t recorded, there is no absolute proof that they are true.
Another common misconception in divorce trials is that if one party holds more of the fault for the dissolution of the marriage (in the case of infidelity, for example), it is assumed that the judge will immediately grant favor to the other party. This is not always the case. When it comes to the division of assets or anything else determined by the judge (alimony, child care, etc.), blame is not necessarily a deciding factor, particularly if you did not file for divorce on a specific fault ground.
It is important to note that a divorce trial is different from a divorce hearing. Divorce hearings can happen throughout the divorce process to make temporary arrangements before the divorce is finalized. These temporary arrangements can provide for child custody, child support, alimony, living arrangements, and other financial matters. Hearings can also be procedural, such as asking one spouse to turn over evidence, blocking certain evidence, and more.
Conversely, a divorce trial happens at the very end of the divorce process, sometimes years after the initial divorce filing. When a judge makes an order on a divorce case, it is a final order. Once the decision has been made, essentially nothing about it can be changed. There are some cases in which parts of decisions can be appealed, but the majority of the time they are considered to be unchangeable. This is why it is so important to have a good attorney by your side throughout this process. They will help you build your case and be able to defend it to prevent any unfavorable outcomes from happening. Keep in mind that in addition to being permanent, these decisions affect everything about your life, from how often you’ll get to see your children, to how much money you must pay each other a month for alimony or child support. Before opting to let a judge decide your future, consider settling as many factors as possible during mediation, and make sure you have an excellent trial lawyer who will help you make a good impression on the judge to increase your credibility in comparison to your ex-spouse.
If you are going through a divorce in Atlanta, the lawyers from Kessler & Solomiany, LLC are available to help you in both the mediation process and, if necessary, in trial. Our divorce attorneys are dedicated to the practice of family law, and are leaders in the Georgia family law community. We have extensive experience handling divorce trials, and we are ready to help you secure the future you deserve. To learn more about how we can help you get the results you need, contact us today at (404) 688-8810.