What Usually Happens 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, you’re fighting over it, and you have to go to court, what can you expect if you go? 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 determine 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 during the interim between when you file for the divorce and when the divorce is finalized. Sometimes that can be 90 days, and 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 your 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, and if you can’t reach an agreement, they will set a temporary orders hearing. This looks like a “mini trial” as you essentially go in and have the judge decide all of those temporary issues; temporary child support, temporary maintenance, etc.
Divorces are 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 a 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 in a permanent orders hearing? 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, and your lawyer should help prepare you for that as well. You also might have no testimony in the case. There will certainly be now testimony on your part during an initial status conference.
I think the important point here for you, in understanding 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, that’s an indication that you and your lawyer aren’t on the same page? That is not good representation if you’re not getting prepared to be put on the stand. Preparing for court hearings is something that you should spend money on and you should spend time on, it can be a very good investment.