Unless an agreement is reached, the end of the divorce rainbow always leads to trial. In King County, a trial date is automatically set the day you file your divorce lawsuit. Most often, the trial is unilaterally set for ten to twelve months out. In some counties, you must petition the court for a trial date specifically. Regardless of the process, trial is an inevitability if your case is not resolved cooperatively.
Before even thinking about trial, most parties should do their best to find common ground with their spouse to resolve lingering issues. First off, trial is risky, so while going to trial might seem like a slam dunk, the judge might see it opposite. Second, trial is expensive, you will likely need to pay your attorney (and maybe your spouse’s attorney!) to go to trial. That might add up to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars that could instead be spent resolving the case. Finally, trial is always a lot of work for both parties. Having to spend nearly a year fighting culminating in days of sitting in a court room might be too much for you to handle.
Once you are at trial, you will finally have the opportunity to tell your side of the story. Do not forget, though, the judge will also hear all the evidence and argument from your spouse. Each trial court may be a little bit different, but they all often have similarities in procedure. The process often goes like this:
First – Petitioner’s Presentation. The Petitioner has the opportunity to present documentary evidence about property, children, and anything else related to the marriage. This evidence will be a focus of the trial and will need to be complete and well organized.
Second – Respondent’s Presentation. The Respondent will then have the same opportunity to present documents they believe more accurately reflect the financial and marital affairs involved for the parties.
Third – Witness Testimony. Both the Petitioner and Respondent will have the opportunity to call witnesses. In simple cases, this may only be the spouses, but in more complex cases you may have employers, peers, teachers, medical providers, expert witnesses. Each party is entitled to cross-examine the other’s witnesses.
Fourth – Rebuttal or Closing. Depending on the court, the rules are different. Sometimes, the Petitioner has the opportunity to present a short rebuttal. Many times, the judge will skip straight to closing where both parties have a final opportunity to sum up the evidence and provide arguments to the judge in their favor.
Fifth – Final Ruling. The judge concludes the trial session by rendering a verdict. This will include all aspects before the court including the parenting plan, child support, spousal maintenance, and distribution of assets and debts.
In the end, trial may be worth it in cases where parties are too far apart or – more often – where children are involved and there are major disagreements as to parenting options. The experienced litigators at Magnuson Lowell PS provide valuable information and recommendations, so their clients can make informed decisions about their case. Call today for a free case evaluation!