Trial Preparation – Contested DivorceSelassie Consulting
Your case has been scheduled for trial. Read your notice carefully for instructions. The time, location, and other instructions will be given by the judge’s staff.
Going to Your Trial
Plan to arrive to the courthouse or log on the the web meeting at least 15 minutes ahead of time. If your hearing is at the courthouse, you need time to park and go through security. Do not bring weapons to court, including keychain utility tools. You may be asked to remove your jewelry, belt, or other items which trigger the metal detector.
There is no rule concerning your dress for court, but you can demonstrate your respect for the court by the way you dress.
- Men – Wear a polo shirt, or dress shirt and slacks. You do not have to wear a tie, but may choose to do so.
- Women – Wear a neat blouse & bottoms or dress. Personally, I recommend tops which do not show cleavage. If your dress or skirt is short or fitted and you have to tug at it to be comfortable, I do not recommend you wear it. You want to feel comfortable, clean and neat.
- Jeans if you have something else you can wear
- Torn, cut, or shredded clothing
- “Club Clothes” or things you would wear to party at night.
- Clothing or jewelry that jingles or makes noise
Arriving to the Courtroom (or Online Meeting)
Turn your cell phone completely off. Do not silence it or place it on vibrate. Distractions caused by cell phones will cause embarrassment. If you are physically at the courthouse, the bailiff will not permit use of your phone as you wait.
Your trial is public in nature and therefore, others may attend and observe. If you are going to the physical courtroom, there will probably be a lot of other cases being handled at the same time as your case.
It is possible that your meeting time will be only for your case. However, if many other cases are scheduled for the same time, then the judge will usually (not always) do a roll call to see who is present for the hearing. When your name is called, you may respond “here” or “present.”
Sometimes the judge addresses issues during the calendar call (paperwork, interpreter, last minute announcements from the other party). If there is an issue or a delay, the judge will let you know and you may have to wait or your case may be rescheduled depending on the type of issue that needs to be addressed before your case can be heard by the judge.
Some judges may give you the opportunity to have the hearing “taken down.” This is not common in an uncontested case. However, take down is your right to pay for the court reporter’s services to make an official recording of your hearing. If you want this service, you must arrange to pay the court reporter ahead of time.
The judge will direct the interpreter to swear an oath to interpret accurately. The interpreter cannot answer any of your legal questions, but may only interpret your words for the judge to understand you and interpret the judge’s words for you to understand the judge.
Testimony & Evidence
Once your turn comes, the judge will guide you through the process.
You will be directed to raise your right hand and asked: Do you swear or affirm that your testimony today will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
You must answer “yes” or “I do” to continue.
PLAINTIFF GOES FIRST
The issues you must present to the court:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child Support
- Division of Property
- Division of Debt
- Restoration of Maiden Name (iff applicable)
The judge will ask the questions if neither side is represented by an attorney. If the other side has an attorney, you will be cross-examined.
ANSWERING CROSS EXAMINATION
Cross examination is based on the testimony you already gave. Your answers should be truthful. Answers to cross-examination are typically:
- I don’t know
- I don’t remember
If you do not understand the question, you may ask “Please repeat the question” or respond “I do not understand the question.”
***Only answer the question you are asked and do NOT volunteer additional information that is not asked.***
THE DEFENDANT GOES NEXT
After the Defendant gives testimony, then you have the opportunity to cross-examine:
- Do not argue with the witness
- You do not win your case during cross-examination, so keep it simple and short.
- Plaintiff goes first
- Defendant goes last
You are all done
The judge will explain when and how you will receive your final decision and the related paperwork. The Court will provide each party with a certified (official) copy of the divorce paperwork.
Your court notice will have instructions and details who you can call for any accommodations you will need. It is a good idea to call before your trial date to notify the court of your needs, such as interpreter, hearing aids, or other communication support.
We are here to help
Please feel free to give us a call or send a text or email if you want to make sure you are ready. Thank you for choosing Selassie Consulting as your Trusted Advisor.