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California Divorce Litigation

It is not uncommon for a divorce to go to trial in California. Divorce is a complex legal issue that can be stressful and emotionally difficult. Some marriages may end amicably, allowing the separated couple to have an uncontested divorce. This could be done through mediation or a similar procedure that allows the couple to make important decisions on issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and alimony themselves.

However, many couples struggle to reach these agreements on their own. When a divorce is contested, it is brought before a judge. The couple and their attorneys are responsible for providing evidence and documentation to ensure that the judge makes a fair ruling. 

Having a divorce reach trial can feel overwhelming. You may fear the results when someone else is making decisions for you. To ease your mind, it is beneficial to understand what to expect at trial. This can help you better prepare for and understand the important topics of discussion. 

Preparing for Your Trial

There are a few steps you need to take when your divorce is going to trial.
These steps include:

  • Set a trial date.
  • Complete the financial disclosure documents.
  • Participate in a settlement conference.
  • Research the state laws in your area.
  • Gather all necessary evidence.
  • Request information from a spouse.
  • Gather witnesses.
  • Plan your testimony.

When preparing for your trial, a skilled divorce attorney can be a great resource. This initial process can feel overwhelming. Having someone on your side who can listen to your case, help you gather all the evidence and documents, and ultimately represent you can make a significant difference. 

You do not need to have a lawyer to settle a divorce in court. If you pursue this route, it is important to take the time to learn everything you can. This can be through legal resources designed to prepare you for what type of evidence you need and important deadlines you will need to meet. It can be helpful to consult with an attorney before deciding one way or another. 

As your court day approaches, you will need to submit a trial brief. This document is typically filed a week prior to the trial. This document gives the judge a basic outline of the facts of the case as well as a summary of any disputed issues. 

What to Expect at Trial

Once your trial time has arrived, you’ve already spent weeks, if not months, preparing. If you’re working with an attorney, they have likely helped you submit all necessary documents, gather your evidence, and prepare your testimony. At trial, you, or your attorney, are there to present the evidence you’ve gathered, including witnesses. While the specifics of your case may vary, you can expect a divorce trial to follow certain steps, such as:

  • The Petitioner Presents: Trials usually start with the spouse who filed for divorce presenting their case first. This includes sharing information pertinent to the marriage, such as finances, assets, properties, and children. 
  • The Respondent Presents:  Following the petitioner, the other spouse is given the opportunity to present their documents. 
  • Witnesses: Both parties have the right to call witnesses to the stand on their behalf. These can be friends, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, babysitters, or essentially anyone who knows both spouses. These witnesses can help attest to the character of the spouses. There will be an opportunity for cross-examination. 
  • Petitioner’s Rebuttal: The petitioner will be given an opportunity to respond to points made by the respondent. 
  • Closing Arguments: Once the witnesses have spoken and all evidence has been presented, each party will make their closing statements. This is often a summarization of the evidence presented to the judge.
  • The Judgment: The trial officially concludes after the judge offers their final judgment. This covers key aspects of the divorce, such as child custody, alimony, and asset division. Each party will need to sign an official document that records the ruling. Once each spouse and the judge have signed the document, the divorce is finalized.

FAQs About California Divorce Litigation

What Happens When a Divorce Goes to Trial in California?

Most of the preparation takes place before the trial date. This includes setting a date, gathering evidence, and preparing your testimony. When a divorce goes to trial, a judge will analyze all the evidence, listen to witness statements, and make a final ruling in accordance with state law. Common issues addressed include property and asset division, alimony, and child support and custody. 

Why Would a Divorce Go to Trial in California?

The main reason a divorce goes to trial is the inability of the separating spouses to come to an agreement. This could be due to animosity or a sense of inequality of representation. A trial can be a common choice in long-term marriages, in situations where a lot of assets are at risk, or when children are involved. Awaiting a trial can be a long process. In some circumstances, spouses are able to reach an agreement during the planning phase, allowing them to avoid the actual trial. 

What Is a Trial-Setting Conference in California Divorce?

A trial-setting conference (TSC) is designed to allow the judge to determine if the case is ready for trial. This conference often involves separating spouses and their attorneys. This conference helps ensure that the discovery phase is complete, all documents have been properly exchanged, and the trial is ready to move forward. This is a vital step in the trial process. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Final Judgment for Divorce in California?

From start to finish, the divorce proceedings can take months if not years. In California, a divorce can’t be finalized until six months after the respondent was served with the summons. Once the judge signs the final judgment, the divorce is legally recognized. Your divorce attorney can help you estimate the duration of your divorce process.

Contact Hayes Family Law

Divorce can be a complex process, especially when it goes to trial. The ideal way to approach your trial date with confidence is to feel as prepared as possible. A skilled family law attorney can help you solidify your case and ensure that your case is fairly heard. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you through the entire divorce process.  

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