Florida Women's Law Group
What To Expect In A Divorce TrialAuthor: Florida Women's Law Group
Date: Jun 15 2022
What to Expect if Your Divorce Case Goes to Trial
It only happens in less that 5% of our cases, but sometimes divorces need to be settled in court. In Florida, it is required that all divorce cases go to mediation. Fortunately, the majority of cases are settled here, saving both parties time and money. However, situations arise where spouses cannot agree on terms and they need a judge to make the final decision.
The Disadvantages of Court
We try to avoid going to court as much as possible. A divorce trial is expensive, lengthy and extremely stressful. Most of our clients are ready to move on and put this painful chapter behind them. A trial drags out the divorce and takes away money that you could use for your future life. If we must go to trial, we try to settle as much as we can in mediation. It is not uncommon to settle most issues and go to court for the judge’s ruling on one or two outstanding items. Issues to be settled can include custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and other financial matters.
When a divorce case is brought to court, the judge has the final say on all matters. This is usually not advantageous for either party. The judge doesn’t know you, your spouse or your children. They take all the evidence and testimony and make a judgement based on what is presented. This gives the judge complete control over the outcome and your future. There is no guarantee that you will be happy with what they decide. In mediation you and your spouse have the ability for give and take. In most situations, spouses are more agreeable with the outcome when they have a say in it.
What Happens Before Trial
Before going to court there are several things that need to happen. The key to a successful trial is preparation. Your attorney meets with you to determine the issues in your case and what is most important to you. This information assists your attorney in developing a strategy that can help you get what you want in the divorce. It’s essential that you are flexible in your needs. You may have to give in some places to get what you want.
The judge will conduct a pretrial hearing with both attorneys to determine the issues that need to be decided and to hear attorney pleadings. The judge will issue a deadline on discovery which is a date that all evidence and witness lists must be submitted. Anything submitted after this date is not admissible. At the end of the hearing both sides specify how much time they will need in court for the case. A date is then set for the trial. Both parties sign off on a stipulation of facts. This is a list of facts in the case that both sides agree on such as: the length of the marriage, age and sex of children, and other items.
Day of Trial
A divorce trial typically lasts one full day. Divorce cases typically do not have juries. In the courtroom on the day of trial there will be both attorneys, you, your spouse, the judge and a court reporter. The judge hears the evidence and makes the final judgement.
Divorce trial proceedings are much like other court cases. Both sides give opening statements, present evidence and witnesses and conclude with closing arguments. In most situations, both spouses give testimony and then are cross-examined by opposing counsel. This also happens with witnesses for both sides.
After closing arguments, the judge may ask each attorney to submit a proposed final judgement on what they feel is fair. The judge takes these documents and the testimony and evidence given in trial and makes their final judgement. This ruling can take days, weeks or months to be issued. Once given it is final and the divorce is granted.
Evidence and Witnesses
A large part of a divorce trial is spent on evidence and witnesses. Each side presents witnesses to support their case and then the opposing attorney gets to cross examine them.
The witnesses you choose are very important to your case. They provide support for you and must be credible experts or have first-hand personal knowledge of the situation. Typical witnesses are accountants, property or business appraisers, therapists, teachers, neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members. Each witness receives a subpoena to appear in court.
In addition to witnesses, attorneys submit evidence to support your case. Evidence can be financial documents, pre- and post-nuptials, parenting plans and records from schools and doctors. Emails, texts and phone messages are also admissible as evidence. Your attorney will stress to you the importance of communication with your spouse. Any angry or harassing messages can be used against you in your case. It will be hard, but you have to control your emotions and take some time to calm down before firing off any angry emails, texts or phone messages.
A divorce trial is very stressful and should be looked at as a last resort if issues cannot be settled in mediation. Unfortunately, not all cases can be worked out and require a judge to intervene.
At Florida Women’s Law Group, we have the experience, resources, and skills to provide you with empathetic and compassionate legal services. We are here to provide legal advice and the assistance you need during mediation and divorce. We represent women just like you to help you get through this and onto a better and happier life.