What to Expect in Divorce Court
Many people who face divorce proceedings for the first time are often apprehensive about divorce court because they don’t know what to expect. This fear of the unknown can be unpleasant, which is why we feel strongly that preparing clients with what to expect can make a divorce hearing less stressful. The following will explain what happens in a divorce court from the start of a case to its finish.
While most divorce cases are settled outside of court, sometimes going to trial is the best option to protect your interests and your family. When you must go to divorce court, here is what happens before, during and after your trial:
- Filing and service of the case. The divorce case is first filed with the court. The divorce papers will ask that your marriage be dissolved and that all related matters, including child custody and support, alimony, equitable division of assets, visitation rights, etc. be resolved by the judge. Then, the case has to be served to the other spouse. You may be served either by post or via a private process server. This documentation includes the date of the hearing as well as information about the upcoming deposition.
- Discovery. Each side will conduct discovery whereby all facts of the case are discovered and disclosed. You may be asked to respond to written and/or verbal questions under oath, or to provide certain documentation such as mortgage information, credit card receipts and statements, copies of check registers and bank statements, etc. In some cases, subpoenas may be issued summoning others to court to answer questions as well.
- Experts. You may have to hire an expert to testify about opinions, including opinions about the value of certain assets, a person’s physical or mental health, or whether a child would be better off in your custody rather than your spouse’s.
- Pre-trial matters. During the pre-trial period, you will have an opportunity to let the court know which issues still remain to be decided and how long you expect the trial to take. Certain pretrial motions, such as whether certain evidence will or will not be admitted, are also addressed at this time. You will be given a deadline by which you must disclose what your experts will say and who will be testifying, as well as which documents you plan to introduce into evidence. You will also be given a deadline to object to any evidence the other side plans to submit.
- Preparation of testimony. All witnesses are prepared during this stage. Witnesses should be aware of how to conduct themselves in the courtroom and what questions will be asked. You will also have a chance to prepare your testimony and organize all documentation so that it is easily accessible during the trial.
- Attorney discussions. Attorneys may make settlement offers to try and resolve the case before it goes to trial.
- Trial. During the trial, each side makes an opening statement. Then, beginning with the spouse filing for the divorce, the facts will be presented and witnesses will be called to testify. After giving their testimony, the witnesses will be cross-examined by the other spouse’s attorney. Rebuttal witnesses may then be called and cross-examined. Finally, each side presents a closing argument. The length of the trial will vary depending on its level of complexity.
- Rulings. The judge will make a ruling either at the end of the hearing or at a later date.
- The court order. After the ruling, one of the attorneys must then write the judge’s ruling into one or more court orders. Before it is submitted, you must decide if there is any part of the order that you would like to appeal. If both your attorney and your ex-spouse’s attorney cannot come to an agreement, the matter may have to be taken back to court.
- Carrying out the rulings. After the divorce, you must actually begin carrying out the rulings. This includes things like selling, refinancing, or dividing all property, putting visitation arrangements into effect, and entering withholding orders for child or spousal support.
Divorce can be an emotional time, but with the help of the right attorney, much of your stress can be relieved. If you are considering divorce in Oregon, consult with a Portland divorce lawyer at McKinley Irvin. We can discuss the details of your case and address your questions and concerns about the divorce process. As the region’s largest family law firm, we have more than 20 years of experience assisting clients with their cases both skillfully and compassionately, and have a reputation for excellence in all family law matters.
To set up a consultation with our firm, please call us today at (503) 395-0244.