Going through a divorce doesn’t always mean that you will have to go to trial. Quite often, the divorce cases will settle before they reach that stage. Through mediation, negotiation, and trying to get both parties to find common ground, it’s possible that the couple can resolve their main issues and never have to go to an actual trial. This is typically the goal, so here are some divorce trial preparation tips.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, there might be a few sticking points that simply can’t be resolved. Maybe there are issues with certain assets that both parties feel belong solely to them, or they don’t feel that they should pay any spousal maintenance. Maybe they feel that they shouldn’t have to pay certain debts. Regardless, cases where conflict remains will go to trial.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you know how to prepare for trial, so you understand what’s going to happen and what will be expected of you. The goal of this two-part article will be to help you get to that point, so you can be ready.
The Best Time to Prepare for Divorce Trial
The best divorce trial preparation doesn’t start a few days or a few weeks before heading to trial. Instead, it starts months in advance. Even if you feel that you will be able to settle, as cases often do, it’s a good idea to at least prepare for the potential of a trial. This means getting everything in order.
Most of the time, you will know the trial date about three months ahead of time. Keep in mind that during the time leading up to the trial, it’s still possible to reach some agreements on certain parts of your case with your ex. Let’s say you have four points where you can’t agree, but you are able to negotiate and remove two of those points. This means that when the trial comes, you will have two fewer things to worry about.
It’s always a good idea to get to an agreement on whatever you can, no matter how simple it might seem, before you go to trial. Not only can this help to make things proceed faster once you are in trial, but it will also mean you will have fewer things that you have to prep for when getting ready. You won’t have to prepare any evidence about those issues, develop arguments about them, and don’t even have to mention them.
Of course, when there are issues that remain, they will have to be hashed out in the courts. The attorneys will let the judge know what issues remain and the number of hours for the trial. At that point, the trial will be set. Now you need to consider what goes into your divorce trial preparation.
What Needs to Be Considered?
The next step is to look at what’s remaining in terms of issues that need to be resolved. You also need to know which documents and witnesses you have already prepared and gathered, as well as what else you will need. You also need to make sure that everything has been disclosed, so the other party knows what to expect.
At this point, you can start to make decisions and come up with a strategy that you will execute during your trial presentation. Identify the broad issues that are remaining, whether it is spousal maintenance, property division, parenting time, etc.
Know the Statutes for Your Issues
Once you know what the remaining issues are, you will then have to identify the law that applies to them. This means looking at the actual statutes. If you are going to be representing yourself, you will have to find these on your own. If you are working with an attorney, they will know these statutes and can explain them to you.
Look deep into each statute that applies. If there are 10 elements in the statute that can be used as proof, you have to then determine which evidence will apply to those 10 things. It is important to be as specific and formulaic as possible. In some cases, it might seem like evidence doesn’t necessarily apply. However, you have to rethink the way you are looking at it. Here’s an example.
Let’s say that your spouse was cheating on you and spending money on prostitutes. Since Arizona is a no-fault state, it means that the judge doesn’t care about the cheating. However, if you are arguing for more spousal maintenance, for example, they will care that he was spending money on prostitutes because it would be considered marital waste. Therefore, that piece of evidence would be allowed in because it applies to marital waste.
Why is it so important to know these statutes inside and out? It’s because this is how you have to present your arguments to the judge. These laws are how they judge things and what they will be using when they are analyzing the information you present to them. Therefore, you want to present that information in ways that they understand and that follow the law. It’s the best way to get the outcome that you want.
The Pretrial Statement
The evidence that you gather and that can be used in your case becomes the exhibits that will be presented at the trial. Once you have the evidence and all of the preceding work done, you can draft the pretrial statement. This is essentially the outline for how you are going to present at your trial. All of the exhibits will be listed, as well as objections to evidence from the other party, etc.
Even if you feel as though you can represent yourself in court and handle much of the work on your own, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney help with this part. They can help you to better understand the statutes and how they can apply, and they can help with writing the pretrial statement. This can often make the process quite a bit simpler and can help to ensure accuracy.
In Part Two of the article, we will be looking into preparing the testimony and divorce trial preparation.