Apart from settlement, a divorce trial is the only way that a court can make a final decision about your case. Settling a divorce case does not necessarily mean you and your ex-spouse have to agree on everything. You can reach a partial settlement on some issues and decide to allow the court to rule on everything else.

It is not uncommon that even though every effort has been made by both parties to try to get the whole case resolved, some issues, such as custody (legal, physical and visitation) cannot be resolved. Most judges appreciate the fact that the case in its entirety will not be litigated but some form of “narrowing the contested issues” have been sought by both sides.

It is expensive, both financially and emotionally, to go to trial in divorce cases. Trial preparation, including preparing and attending mandatory settlement conferences, preparation of trial exhibits, preparation of witnesses, including expert witnesses, are costly and time consuming. But for many of my clients, having the burden “off their shoulder” and letting the judge decide after hearing and viewing all exhibits alleviate the pressure of making the “wrong” decision.

Unlike my criminal cases, which entails jury selection and presenting the case to a jury, divorce trials are not in front of a jury but a “bench trial”—meaning in front of a judge. Both sides will call their respective witnesses, examine the witnesses, and provide to the judge their side of the “story.”

Issues commonly litigated in the custody arena are: who gets legal custody (deciding the education, medical, religious) path the child will take; physical (who will have the child primarily and the visitation accorded to the other parent. As for the financial issues, components are child support, spousal support, reimbursement, division of assets and liabilities, attorney fees.

It is very rare that the court will make a ruling right after the closing statements of each side. What occurs in most, if not all cases is that the court will take the case “under advisement. This means that the judge will take some time to review all the evidence, the issues before the court, the case laws presented and then decide.

I have had trials where the judge has called us back for a subsequent date to present additional evidence, legal arguments, memorandum of points and authorities, to support the respective positions of each party and then finally an order. Some judge will allow an interim order and provide it to both sides, enabling both sides to review to contest or affirm the court’s decision. I have had trials where this has occurred and the court has requested court appearances and submission of pleadings in support of their respective arguments.

A trial generally lasts for several days—or even weeks. Unlike in criminal cases in which the defendant has a right to a continuous trial, it is not uncommon due to the calendar of family courts to have it broken up piecemeal (some days for full day but on other days, it could mean a half day). You get the picture– trial work is complicated and a skilled attorney experienced in trial work is necessary in order to insure that your case is efficiently and effectively presented to the court.

Any questions, feel free to call my office at 310-601-7144.

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