What to Expect at Trial?
A divorce trial in Orange County is a formal and structured courtroom event. The state laws and procedures in California will govern how a divorce trial is conducted. The decisions made in a divorce trial will have far-reaching and lasting ramifications for both parties.
Divorce trials in Orange County are usually presided over by a judge, but sometimes a jury trial may be conducted. The attorneys representing both parties will present evidence before the court and may call witnesses to bolster their arguments on critical issues, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and property division.
The court will impartially evaluate all available facts, evidence and arguments from both sides and deliver a divorce judgment that will final and binding on both parties. Once the judge issues the Final Divorce Decree, the divorce proceeding is over and both parties are legally obligated to abide by the terms of the Decree.
A divorce trial is never simple or easy, and a dedicated Orange County divorce lawyer will do everything within the ambit of law to resolve your issues without having to take the case to trial. However, in some cases, a divorce trial is inevitable when there is no other way for your attorney to protect your legal rights in a divorce.
Some or all of your contentious family law issues in a divorce may be resolved through a trial. Both sides will be expected to comply with the rules of the court and the applicable state and Orange County laws. While the trial process may sometimes vary, your divorce trial in Orange County is likely to take place in the following order.
The Filing Spouse Goes First
The spouse who filed for divorce (the Petitioner) will go first and place evidence on record and call their witnesses. Once the expert testimony of the witnesses has occurred for the Petitioner, the other spouse (the Respondent) will have the opportunity to question or cross-examine the witness on issues that they raised and their expert opinion which they put forward during the testimony.
The petitioner will request the court to accept into evidence documents, other information and any tangible items as exhibits. The respondent would have had prior access to these pieces of evidence during the discovery process. However, as a common practice, the respondent will have another opportunity in the courtroom to review the exhibits before they get entered into evidence.
The court clerk will label the exhibits after which these will included in the official record. An exhibit may only be admitted into evidence in the court if the judge finds it fundamentally relevant to the case.
The Respondent Presents their Case
Once the petitioner side has completed their arguments and submission of evidence, the respondent side will call their own expert witnesses and admit their exhibits to be taken into evidence. At the conclusion of their arguments, the petitioner (the defense) will rest their case. The petitioner at this stage will get an opportunity to “rebut” those arguments. Rebuttals have to be restricted to the subject matter and exhibits of the defense that are already in evidence.
Final Oral Arguments and Judgment
Both sides at the end will have an opportunity to present their final arguments before the judge. In a few cases, the judge may issue the final order from the bench and provide a written copy of the order later. But in general, the family court judge in Orange County will allow both parties to submit a proposed copy of the Order they would like the court to issue.
After carefully considering all the arguments, evidence, testimonies and exhibits, and applying the appropriate local and state laws to them, the judge will finalize the divorce by issuing a formal written order that disposes of the case. Once you have a copy of the Final Divorce Decree, you can review it with your divorce lawyer to determine whether you want to appeal some parts or all of the order within the stipulated time limit. In absence of an appeal from either side, the divorce will become final.
Expert Testimony can be the Decider
To back your arguments on complex issues that could go in any direction, your divorce lawyer may suggest that you call for the testimony of an expert witness.
For instance, you may need an appraiser to provide a professional estimate on the valuation of your real estate properties or house, or a vocational expert to give their opinion on how much you or your ex may be able to earn based on your qualifications, skills and experience. Social or medical experts may be called in for a custody evaluation and recommendations.
In addition to expert testimony, your attorney may also sometimes rely on other non-specialist witnesses who are in a position to testify on matters they have personally gone through or witnessed. The witness lists are exchanged during discovery, so there will be no surprises.
But in an exceptional situation, if you and your lawyer decide to call upon a surprise witness, you will have to make an advance request to the court to permit this testimony.
You Need an Experienced Trial Attorney in Orange County
If you are looking to achieve your goals through a divorce trial, you will need an Orange County family law attorney with sufficient trial experience. The attorney will be in familiar territory in the court, and will be able to think on his or her feet, which is the most important skill you need in a divorce trial.
To ensure that you are able to make the most effective negotiations with your former spouse as well as protect your rights in the courtroom, you need a divorce trial lawyer with a proven track record. With a competent attorney by your side, you will be on a level playing field with the other side.
Your attorney will be able to resolve most of your concerns, and replace emotions with rationality at every step. With the support of a top-rated lawyer, you will be far more confident and can approach the divorce matters in a clear-headed and composed manner for best outcomes.