At this phase, you know that you are going to be going to trial, and now is the time to make sure you are properly prepared. Even though you always hope that the case can be settled, you still need to be ready for a trial, which is why you should begin trial preparation for this possibility from the very start.
By planning for a trial from the start, it will help you to have a more favorable outcome in your case. You will want to ramp up the preparation in the months and weeks before the trial is set to begin. The more work you put into the preparation the better off you will be. This is true for the attorneys, as well as the person who is getting divorced. Even though settling is a great option, don’t assume that you will have a case that settles.
Let’s look at some of the most important things you will need to do during the trial preparation. Namely, it will be selecting exhibits and witnesses.
Compiling Trial Exhibits
When collecting evidence during trial preparation, you need to be sure you are keeping everything properly organized. This could include account statements, debt statements, tax returns, appraisals, valuations, etc. You also need to make a list of all of the potential witnesses that could testify at the trial.
Additionally, you will need to fill out a witness and exhibit list. You need to tell the court and the witnesses who your witnesses are and what exhibits you will be using in the trial.
An exhibit could be any object, photo, paper, receipt, letter, or document that reveals something relevant about the case to the judge. Witnesses can help you tell your story to the judge. You have to be careful when choosing witnesses to ensure they have a testimony that will be relevant to the case you are presenting.
Complete Deposition of Any Anticipated Witnesses
Deposition happens when a witness is sworn in and the attorney asks that individual the deposed questions. These questions are recorded by a court reporter, and what they say becomes testimony. Attorneys can ask anything that they want during the deposition. It doesn’t have to be admissible in court. These are typically used to help lock in the witness’s story, and it could help to discover new evidence that you might not have had otherwise.
One of the reasons that a deposition could help is that it could show that the other party or a witness is lying. If you get to trial and the witness then changes their story, the deposition could be used to show that the witness is not credible.
Depositions are not always needed, of course. However, they could be beneficial, and attorneys will often want to consider using them when there is a chance, even a slim one, that it could help their client’s case.
One of the other important jobs that an attorney will do when working on a divorce case is getting the witnesses ready for deposition and testifying at the trial. Most of the time, the average person doesn’t have much experience in court as a witness, so they need to be prepared to know what to expect when they are being asked questions by the other party’s counsel or the judge. They need to know what they can expect when they go through a deposition.
Expert witnesses will have much more experience, but if you have an individually-hired expert, you will still want to make sure that they are properly prepared for the trial.
Drafting the Pretrial Statement
A pretrial statement is a document that needs to be filed before a trial or an evidentiary hearing. Generally, when a trial is set, the minute entry will include instructions and a deadline for the statement. The deadline is typically five days before the trial is set to start. If the pretrial statement is not provided, or if there are other mistakes made, it could cause harm to the case.
The pretrial statement will need to include all of the pertinent information about the case including names of the parties, children, the type of the case, and the date and time of the hearing. It will also include a list of witnesses and exhibits, agreements between the parties, uncontested facts, contested issues and facts, and objections.
The pretrial statements need to be fully completed, and it needs to be accurate. If it’s not, it could cause problems with the case.
Creation of Witness Questions for Cross and Direct Examination
You and your attorney will know what witnesses will be called to testify by the other party. It’s important to create a list of questions that can be used for witnesses in cross-examination and direct examination. These questions, of course, need to be pertinent to the case at hand.
The War Game Trial
Sometimes, it is helpful to have a “war game trial” as a form of practice. The military uses war games to help them get in fighting shape for combat, and you can do the same to ensure you are ready for the trial.
Having a mock trial that covers all of the same bases that the real trial will cover can help. It will get everyone accustomed to how the trial will flow, they can feel what it’s like to be asked certain questions, etc. Although it might not always be needed, it can be beneficial.
The Big Day
When the day of the trial arrives, it can be nerve-wracking for many. If you are getting divorced and you chose to represent yourself in the case, it can feel overwhelming. Even those who have an attorney with them will often feel the pressure. It’s a big event, and you want to be sure that you get everything right, or as right as possible. Remember everything you’ve gathered during trial preparation and maintain focus and poise.
Try to remain as calm as possible and trust in the preparation you’ve done for the trial. Those who have put in the work to ensure they are fully prepped for their trial will fare better and will find that it’s not always as scary as it seems.