Any divorce matter
may be resolve before trial with the parties
reaching an agreement on the issues.
If the parties are unable to reach an
agreement on all issues, those issues that remain
disputed would go to trial. that means, you can
resolve portions of your case and save some time and
money associated with a trial and try only those
issues that remain disputed.
Some states allow
for juries, many others do not. It depends greatly
on your State. Jury trails are not the norm.
they do occur, the issues ripe for a
determination by a jury may include:
- asset value,
- child custody,
- fraud, cruel treatment, and
fault related issues
If a trial is required, whether it is a jury trial
or a trial to the court, it lasts as long as there
is evidence to present. There is no standard
timeline. For simple cases, it may take a day. For
more complex cases, longer.
If there is a jury, the first half of the first day
will be spent impaneling the jury through a process
called Voir Dire. In that process, each party,
through their counsel, may inquire of the jury to
determine potential bias and strike jurors from the
jury pool that display bias. Each party also usually
has what are called preemptory challenges which
allow them to strike a juror for no stated reason..
the number of preemptory challenges varies from
state to state.
After the jury is impaneled, the
petitioner/plaintiff makes an opening statement
summarizing the evidence they will present and what
they believe it will prove. The respondent/defendant
can also make an opening statement or reserve it
until they start their case in chief. A case in
chief is started when a party begins calling their
The Plaintiff commences their case by calling
witnesses and presenting evidence. The defendant,
through counsel, may cross examine and challenge
evidence. When the Plaintiff finishes with their
last witness, they rest.
The defendant than may start by making their opening
statement if they reserved it, or by begin by
calling their witnesses and presenting their own
evidence. The roles are no reversed and the
Plaintiff may cross examine witnesses called by the
respondent/defendant and by making evidentiary
challenges to any documentary evidence offered. When
all witnesses have been called, the defendant rests.
Each party may usually make a closing argument. In
some states and in some cases, the court may allow
that argument to be made in writing in the form of a
brief. This most often occurs in trials to the Court
and not a jury.
After closing arguments, the Judge will read jury
instructions (the rules of the case) to tell the
jury the presumptions of law and burdens of proof
that apply and how they should look at the evidence.
Only then does the jury retire to deliberate.
If there is no jury, everything is the same except
the jury selection and reading the jury instructions
and occasionally, opening arguments are waived.
If it is a trial to the Court, you may wait while
the Judge takes the matter under advisement,. An
order may take quite awhile depending on state
rules. In some states, it is as long as 90 days from
the last submission.