When your divorce is set for trial this is where the judge will finalize your divorce case. It is set after several months of discovery and represents the final orders in your divorce. Given the permanent nature of this proceeding, many people are intimidated by the prospect of testifying and having one shot to persuade the judge to rule their way.
Most parties will try every avenue to resolve a case prior to setting a trial and having to go through the process of preparing for trial, if anything, due to the financial and emotional tolls a trial can take on the parties. Trials are expensive, and you are placing your future in the hands of a Judge who does not know you or your family and hoping for the best. Trials really should not be used unless absolutely necessary to resolve a case. However, in some scenarios, the case needs to be set for trial in order to move it along. If you have a party who will not settle, or who does not want to get divorced, setting trial dates is a way to put an “end date” on the case, because on that date either the case will finally be settled or the case will proceed to trial, and one way or another, the case will be over.
Before Your Divorce Case is Set For Trial
There are many steps that need to be taken in order for a case to be set for trial. Usually, when a case is set for trial, discovery has been issued (or there is a tight time frame/deadlines for issuance and closure of same). This means gathering documents, and typically it is many years of documents. You will need to gather, or otherwise continue to update, your tax documents, bank records, credit card records, retirement account statements, investment account statements, payroll documentation, financial affidavits, documents relative to what is in the best interests of your children, and more. These documents must be seasonally updated through the date of the trial. So, there is a gigantic obligation to produce or continuously update records.
Depositions also must be taken if they are going to be required. A deposition is the sitting of a deponent (usually the other party, or other witnesses you may call at a trial) to see how they will answer questions at trial relative to the case at hand. Depositions usually last no more than three hours, unless the Court grants additional time. All attorneys and parties may be present, and a court reporter is present to take down the questions and answers during the deposition. A record or transcript will also be produced to be used at trial for purposes of impeachment (meaning, if a deponent testifies differently at a deposition than they do at trial regarding the same issue, the transcript can be used to call into question the deponent/witnesses’ credibility.)
Many firms may also request a trial retainer in order to cover the costs of preparing for trial in a tighter time frame than usual. Saving money to account for a large trial retainer is something that litigants should plan for and expect if their case is set for trial.
Preparing When Your Divorce is Set for Trial
Final Trial Conference or Pre-Trial Conference
There is usually a final trial conference or pre-trial conference before the trial proceeds as a last attempt to try and resolve a case. The majority of divorce cases settle, but some may not settle until the eve of trial, or even the day of trial, depending on the issues and the circumstances involved. Settlement is almost always most cost-effective than a trial. It is rare for a litigant to get everything that they want. Judges try not to be biassed and try to do what is fair which often means giving everyone a little bit of what they are requesting. Evaluating your position prior to trial could save you a lot of money. If you are going to trial believing you will get everything that you are asking for, that is probably not a realistic expectation. Discussing settlement up until the day of trial is something that should continue to happen in order to try and keep the costs of the case as manageable as possible.
Testimony and Witnesses
Finally, you should think about who you need to testify in your case. Talk to your attorney about what documents need to be admitted into evidence and what experts or lay witnesses are necessary to have evidence admitted. If you wait too long to think about this, it may be too late as some counties require a certain amount of notice prior to your trial date.
The husband and wife will also testify in their case. It is important to be honest and to prepare for your testimony with your attorney so you know what to expect and not be surprised at trial. It is also important to know what evidence/testimony your soon-to-be-ex will introduce so that you are prepared to rebut that information.
Once your case is set for trial, talk to your divorce attorney about the legal strategy to help you succeed at trial. Early preparation and good communication will go a long way to ease the nerves on that final divorce day.