Most divorces are settled between the former spouses. But sometimes, irreconcilable differences come up around complicated matters of property or custody. If your spouse is acting in bad faith and your case just won’t settle, despite all your best efforts, then you may need to go to court.
Divorce court can be stressful and upsetting. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Is it possible to partially settle things before a trial?
Yes. A partial settlement is when you and your soon-to-be former spouse meet with mediators or an attorney to work through as much of the divorce as you can prior to going to court, leaving a judge to rule on anything you can’t agree on. This gives you more control over how things shake out—and means you’ll likely be more involved in the process from the start, as you attend various pre-trial hearings.
What preparations do I need before going to court?
As with any divorce, you’ll need to meet deadlines around filing. Failing to meet deadlines or request extensions can result in the court going along with whatever your ex-spouse has proposed. Be aware that the final trial date can be set months after the case is filed.
The court, in Texas, will go through a process called discovery, where each side can discover the facts of the case. You’ll be asked to answer questions under oath, and may be asked for financial documents like paystubs, tax returns, and credit card statements. Friends, family, lovers, lovers friends and family; all can be summoned to give testimony under oath. Witnesses will have to be walked through the process of appearing in court, and you will also have to prepare your testimony.
Discovery, lining up witnesses, and getting property correctly valued can take a long time and a lot of work. Start your preparation at the earliest possible moment.
What about right before the trial?
You’ll want to make sure you have all necessary documents like tax returns well before the trial starts: procrastinating on gathering them can leave you unprepared, and this is not a trial you want to be unprepared for. You should also work with your attorney to make sure you’re prepared for questioning during the trial, and clear on what you should and should not say while under questioning.
Make sure you and your witnesses know how to get to the courthouse and through security. Make sure you know what you can and cannot bring through security: it’s not a good idea to run into a problem and end up late. Also remember to leave plenty of time for traffic and parking.
How will the trial go?
Probably something like this: the judge will call your case, and you’ll move to the front of the courtroom. After your witnesses are sworn in, they’ll have to wait out in the hallway. From there, each side will make an opening statement, and will call witnesses to testify and be cross-examined. Objections by lawyers will be made, accepted, or rejected. Documents will be introduced as evidence. Finally, both sides can present their closing arguments.
All of this can take while—some trials last a single day, others can drag on for longer. Eventually, the judge will issue a ruling, which will eventually be interpreted into a comprehensive and legally binding court order. These can be appealed, but once that process is finished, the divorce will be finalized.
That’s it, right?
Yes—except for the matter of carrying out the orders, dividing property, arranging custody, and living out the rest of your new life. Divorce can be a complicated process, but it can be less stressful with the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Remember: Sandoval Law Firm is here to help you get the best outcome possible.