What Happens in a Divorce Trial?

A gavel and legal scales in front of a wall of law books

If you are going through a divorce and other settlement options have not resolved your divorce litigation, you may find yourself entering a trial. It is common to be fearful of a trial and what the process may look like. Many equate a trial to what they have seen on TV dramas and assume the trial will be highly contentious, and be filled with intimidation tactics from the opposing counsel or judge. When in fact your divorce trial may not look like this at all. Your Florida Divorce Attorney is an experienced trial attorney and will be able to explain in detail the trial proceedings as well as what is expected from you during these proceedings.

Prior to your trial, you will have an in-depth meeting with your Florida Divorce Attorney to discuss the details of your trial. Your attorney will ensure you know the location of the courthouse, the time of the trial and what time you are needed to be there, as well as any necessary items you may need to bring with you. Your attorney will then discuss with you what to anticipate at trial. He will go over his plan of action and anticipated witness list as well as when you may be called to testify. He will also review with you the evidence he will present with each witness. During this meeting, it is important to understand what evidence is crucial to bring to the court’s attention that will provide factual basis for your specific claims in your case. Therefore, if you do not understand any of the tactics your attorney is explaining, ask questions and ensure you are informed.

At trial, the courtroom will usually only be filled if you, your attorney, your spouse, their attorney, the judge, a bailiff or sheriff deputy, and a court reporter. Rarely will the court allow any other individuals to be present in these hearings as they involve a great deal of confidential information. You should be respectful of the judge and stand when he or she enters or exits the room, unless they instruct you not to do so. Further, you should address the judge as “your Honor” when speaking to them or answering a question. Finally, you should dress appropriately. Business formal is what is typically expected in a trial setting.

Finally, the trial will begin with opening statements by each side. These can be waived by the parties however; they are used to introduce the judge to the issues in the case and provide a general background for the direction of the trial. The attorney may also state in these arguments, what they believe the evidence will show, and why the judge should rule in their favor. If you are the Plaintiff, the individual who filed for divorce, your attorney will begin the trial by calling the first witness. As discussed in your pretrial meeting, your attorney will call each witness and introduce the necessary evidence associated with each witness. Once your attorney has examined each witness, they will be subject to cross examination by opposing counsel and then your attorney may return to redirect the witness’s testimony. During any witness’ testimony, attorneys may object to certain questions or answers provided. The judge will rule on each objection before questioning continues. Do not be fearful of objections, as they are a common occurrence in any trial and your attorney will be properly prepared to argue for or against an objection. Once the plaintiff’s attorney has called all their witnesses, they will rest, and the opposing counsel will present their case and witnesses in the same manner. Opposing counsel will call a witness, engage in direct examination, followed by cross examination by plaintiff’s attorney, and redirect if necessary. Some witnesses can present testimony for an hour while some witnesses may present testimony for a whole day; each witnesses testimony depends upon their knowledge of the case and the details they are able to provide to the court. Do not be weary of the different lengths of each testimony as they are all unique to the individual case. Once both sides have presented their evidence to the judge, they will end the trial with closing arguments. These are very similar in nature to opening statements as the attorneys will summarize the witness’s statements and evidence and formulate it in a way to display why the judge should rule in their favor.

After the conclusion, the judge may make a ruling on the matter in the courtroom, however, this is uncommon. Rather, the judge will typically take a case under advisement and present a final ruling on the case after they have time to personally reflect on all the evidence and draft a proper, legal response. This final ruling will be then drafted into a Final Judgment of Divorce that will declare your marriage to be over.

If you are approaching a divorce where you anticipate a trial, ensure you are properly represented with an experienced Florida Divorce Attorney. We will be able to explain every detail of the process with you and answer any questions you may have as well as provide you with aggressive representation in a courtroom.

Speaking to an attorney at our Florida office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 850-307-5211 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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