What Happens in a Divorce Trial?

You made the decision to file for divorce, and although you were prepared for a stressful situation, you did not think it would be this complicated. You and your spouse just cannot seem to agree on anything. All you do is fight. It seems like you are spending so much time and wasting so much money to end your marriage. It has become extremely frustrating.

Since nothing is getting resolved and you want to move forward, it is time to take your case to trial. In a divorce trial, the issues are outlined and the judge makes a decision. These issues may include asset division, child custody and alimony. If you and your spouse have agreed on all but one issue, then just that issue will be tried in court.

It is always better to come to an agreement outside of court for several reasons. First of all, having to wait for a court date only delays your divorce. It could be weeks or even months before your issue is heard in court. On top of that, court fees are expensive. A trial can cost as much as six digits. If you settle outside of court, it is much, much less. Also, it is better if the spouses could come to an agreement outside of court, since they are more familiar with the issue involved. A judge is forced to make a decision based solely on what he or she hears in court. They could end up making a decision with which neither party is happy.

So, if you do have to go to court for your divorce, what can you expect? Here is an outline of the process.

Pre-Trial Preparation

Before you go to court, you will need to spend some time preparing. When you pay for a trial, you are mostly paying for the extra prep work from your lawyer. You will need to gather evidence to prove your case. This may include proof of assets, such as bank statements, deeds, titles and other documents. You may even need texts and emails if you are trying to prove that certain things were said. In some cases, you may need experts. This will also cost a lot of money. What exactly you will need will depend on the issues at dispute.

During this evidence gathering process, one or both attorneys may get a better idea of what is in store when they go to court. As such, they may be able to predict the outcome. If they think the other side will get the better outcome, they may decide to settle outside of court.

Trial Process

Divorce cases will usually be heard by a judge instead of a jury, which is usually reserved for criminal cases. You may have seen court cases on TV and the process will look similar to those. Both parties will be able to prove testimony and present evidence. They can also have witnesses and experts testify.

The judge may ask the parties some questions to clarify certain points. At the end, both attorneys will give closing statements and argue for a particular outcome.

Once the divorce trial is finished, it is up to the judge to make a decision. Sometimes the judge will rule on the issues immediately. It is more common, however, for the judge to review all the evidence before making a decision. This can take several weeks or even months, so be patient.

What to Keep in Mind

Some things are relevant in a trial; some things are not. If you are arguing over child custody, the relationship the child has with the parents is relevant. Pictures, school records, medical records, texts, and emails over the course of the child’s life will tell a story.

Some things, however, are not so important. You may be upset about your husband’s infidelity and feel that he should be punished by not getting custody of the children. However, your husband’s behavior likely did not affect your children, so it is not in the judge’s (or child’s) best interest to prevent the husband from seeing his children. The infidelity, in this case, is irrelevant to the issue at hand.


The judge’s ruling may not be the final answer. If you are not happy with the decision, you can opt to appeal it. Ask your lawyer to prepare a written argument. They can try to prove that the judge did not follow the law when they made their decision. However in most cases, appeals are not successful. That is because the judge is rarely willing to change their original decision unless you have strong evidence that there was an error somewhere.

It may make more sense to ask for a modification. Modifications are often more successful, if you can show a change in circumstances rather than a judge’s error. Modifications are often made in issues involving child support, child custody, and alimony.

Seek Legal Help

If possible, you will want to avoid the financial and emotional toll of a divorce trial. However, there are some situations in which trying to reach a settlement with the other spouse is impossible, so a trial may be your only route.

Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand your options. Whether you shoot for a settlement or have to prepare for a court trial, he will give you the advice you need so you get a favorable outcome. To schedule a consultation with our office, fill out the online form or call (954) 346-6464.