What should I expect in divorce court? First of all, divorce court happens if you’re not going to agree on everything, right? If you’re going to agree and have a settlement agreement and a parenting plan drawn up then divorce court’s almost irrelevant.
If there is something that you are contentious about and you’re fighting over it and you have to go to court, there are a number of hearings that you could have. You are going to have an initial status conference whether you’re contentious or not. During an initial status conference, you go before the judge and the judge talks about the case and wants to know if you’ve got a lot of contention or if this case is going to run smoothly. Generally, not much happens legally at an initial status conference, it’s more about getting the judge educated as to what’s going on your case.
You could have a temporary orders hearing. You have a temporary orders hearing if you can’t agree on how you’re going to deal with finances and children in the interim between when you file for the divorce and when the divorce is finalized. Sometimes that can be 90 days, sometimes that can be over a year. How are you going to deal with the in-between time? Who’s going to pay what bills? How’s the mortgage going to get handled? If you’re separated, where are the kids going to go? Are they going to spend time with Mom and spend time with Dad? Are there domestic violence issues? All of these things need to get determined either by agreement at the beginning of the case or if you can’t reach an agreement they will set temporary orders hearing.
It’s like a mini trial, and you essentially go in and have the judge decide all of those temporary issues (temporary child support, temporary maintenance).
Court is usually going to be more expensive if you can’t agree on anything. If you have to go to a temporary orders hearing, it’s like having a trial, like I said, and you’re going to pay for your attorney to get prepared and go in and do this mini-trial. Then, you’re going to do it all over again at the end in the permanent orders hearing. These are the contentious cases and these are the expensive cases.
What can you expect? You’re going to go into a court room, you’re going to stand next to your attorney, there’ll be a judge sitting on the bench, you may or may not give testimony. If you do, you should have prepped with your attorney on what those questions might be. The other attorney may cross-examine you. Right? You need to be prepped for that as well. You may have no testimony in the case. Certainly at an initial status conference, there’d be no testimony.
I think the important point here for you, what you can expect in court is to make sure you’re prepared. If you’re going to be on that stand, you need to spend time with your attorney ahead of time and if you’re not, something’s wrong. Right? That is not good representation if you’re not getting prepared to be put on the stand. All right? That’s something that you should spend money on and you should spend time on, that’s a good investment.