What Happens At Trial?
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. However, when
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 own witnesses.
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
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
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.
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