Your divorce trial may be one of the most important and stressful events of your life. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare can make all the difference between presenting a persuasive case and inviting the judge to question your credibility. Here are some tips about how to prepare for divorce trial so that you will be ready to take the stand.
What Happens in a Divorce Trial?
A divorce trial is the culmination of months of work by you and your attorney to dissolve your marriage. Most divorce cases never go to trial. They settle at mediation or through an agreement negotiated by the parties’ attorneys. But when settlement fails, any unresolved issues will be presented to the judge in a formal evidentiary hearing.
How Long is a Permanent Orders Hearing?
The full Colorado divorce process will take at least 3 months. Some families continue to negotiate and litigate for more than a year. The final divorce trial itself, called a Permanent Orders Hearing in Colorado, may only take a few hours, or it could span days of court hearings. This will depend on your judge, and on how many issues remain unresolved at the time of trial.
The Divorce Trial Process
Each family court judge has the authority to set his or her own processes and procedures, as long as they comply with Colorado state law and court rules. However, most divorce trials will include:
- Submitting trial briefs ahead of the divorce trial
- Opening Statements where lawyers lay out the case
- Admission of exhibits and documents to support your case
- Witness testimony by parties and objective third parties
- Closing statements where lawyers summarize testimony and argue for the best outcome
- Judge’s decision from the bench or in a written opinion
- Final orders signed by the judge resolving your case
10 Tips for Divorce Trial Preparation
1. Don’t Wait Until Settlement Fails to Start Divorce Trial Preparation
Parties in a divorce trial should start preparing for trial as soon as the case is filed, and work with their lawyers to develop their case along the way. If you wait too long to prepare, you may miss out on discovery tools that will help you prove your case.
2. Gather Documents to Prove Finances and Values
In the heat of trial, your memory may fade, but documents don’t lie. As soon as your divorce starts, begin gathering copies of all your statements, bills, tax documents, and other paperwork, so you won’t have to rely on your memory for facts and figures at trial.
3. Create a Snapshot of Finances, Budgets to Help Your Judge
Come up with a budget for your household expenses after the divorce or a list of all your assets and liabilities. Putting together spreadsheets with this information makes it easier for your judge to remember all the financial issues in your case.
4. Use Objective Witnesses to Build Credibility
Many parties in divorce trials want to get on the stand and tell their stories. However, sometimes that story will be more convincing coming from someone else. Strategize with your attorney to recruit neutral and objective witnesses (such as your children’s teachers or your spouse’s boss) to support your version of the events and build credibility.
5. Don’t Coach Your Children
If your children are old enough, the judge will consider their preferences in setting a parenting time schedule. Kids naturally look to their parents for guidance in these cases, but you should not coach your children about what to tell the judge. Instead, encourage them to be honest and assure them you will love them no matter what the outcome of your divorce trial.
6. For Virtual Hearings, Know Your Technology
Since COVID, many courts have begun hosting court hearings virtually. This may not apply to your divorce trial, but it could affect the way your pre-trial conference is held. If you receive a notice for a virtual hearing, make sure you and your lawyer do a test run so you know how your technology works before you “show up” to court.
7. Think About What Your Outfit Tells Your Judge
Getting dressed for your divorce trial often means putting on a nice suit or dress. You want the judge to believe you are taking the case seriously, and that you have your affairs in order. Take a minute to discuss what you will wear with your lawyer, and avoid shorts, sandals, or revealing outfits.
8. Tell Your Story Through Direct Examination
No matter how many other witnesses you present, your testimony will be at the heart of your divorce trial. The more focused you can stay on the issues, the stronger your case will be. Let your attorney’s questions guide you through your story one step at a time in a way the judge will be able to follow.
9. Keep Calm and Take Your Time Answering
It is easy to get nervous on the stand. Your divorce trial preparation should include strategies to calm down, let go of emotions, and focus on the question at hand. One tool is to take time answering every question, even obvious ones. That way when you need it you will already be in the habit of thinking before you speak.
10. Practice Answering Cross-Exam Questions
The hardest part of testifying in a divorce trial is cross-examination. This is when your spouse’s attorney gets to ask you tough questions to poke holes in your case. The key to cross-exam questions is to avoid arguing with the other attorney. If there is more to be said about something, let your lawyer know, so they can follow up when it is once again their turn.
Seeing You Through Your Divorce Trial, Start to Finish
At Aviso Law, our divorce attorneys aren’t afraid to take a case through a divorce trial. While most of our cases settle, attorneys Cory Tuck and Elizabeth Thomas know what it takes to prove your case in court. We will help you prepare and present your case. We are here to serve you and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.