Divorce Trial in California

Constructing a Timeline for Your Trial

If your case does not settle, your attorney will appear before the judge and will confirm the trial date and the “time estimate” of how long they believe the trial will take.

At that time your case may be assigned directly to trial on a specific date, but it also may be ordered to standby until a courtroom is available. (This maximizes the use of the limited number of courtrooms, but makes planning difficult and stressful for litigants.)

Trials are not supposed to produce surprises. You have been building up to this for over six months, perhaps a year or more.

With a short trial you could go directly to trial or, more likely, to a holding pattern designed to fill unexpectedly empty courtrooms. Your trial will be held within two to three months, generally, and perhaps within a few days if a courtroom held for short trials becomes available.

Your trial will be about two weeks after your Mandatory Settlement Conference in many court systems. During the time between your MSC and your trial, you have nothing to do except meet with your attorney to go over what you will be testifying and the specific issues your attorney will cross-examine your spouse on.

The Trial

Now the time for your trial has arrived. If you have followed the California Divorce Guide road map, you have been getting ready for this from the beginning of your divorce case, and have little reason to be nervous. The facts and opinions you needed to consider at settlement are in hand for use at trial. Gather together the evidence that you have uncovered and the arguments you have prepared for your courtroom presentation.

Your attorney must now finish up the final steps of preparation that were put on hold. The trial brief, typically filed a week prior to trial, uses most of the factual material from the MSC brief. However, legal authority and argument must be further developed and polished to supplement the facts. You will want your brief to be clear on the facts as well as crisp and enlightening on the legal issues so the judge uses a copy of it to make notes during the trial.

In many cases, a judge will use portions of the prevailing party’s MSC brief as part of the court’s actual ruling.  A good trial brief takes a lot of time and effort on the part of your attorney, but it also makes it easier for the judge to rule in your favor if they agree with the logic of your attorney’s argument, case citations, and evidence.

Who Else May Be Involved in the Trial?

Your case may involve the use of experts, such as accountants and custody evaluators.  Also, expert witnesses may play a part. These witnesses may require additional time at this stage of your divorce case, as each must be prepared for your trial and your facts, no matter how many times he or she has previously testified.

What to Prepare for

Be ready for trial demands more than preparation of legal arguments. Much of the work is making sure that the right person or thing is in the right place at the right time. Trial subpoenas have to be issued or reissued depending on how the date is set in your area.

Special exhibits to graphically emphasize your important points must be completed. Your attorney may need your assistance with last-minute questions about documents or facts to be confirmed with an expert witness.

Trials are not supposed to produce surprises. You have been building up to this for over six months, perhaps a year or more. If you have picked a competent attorney, then he or she should be prepared to conduct the trial. Do not worry, but be prepared to be a witness and a resource for your attorney if your spouse attempts to spring a surprise.

This is Your Case, Don’t Get Taken Advantage of

You are a party to this lawsuit: this is your divorce. You will be allowed to sit at the counsel table with your attorney and pass notes if you hear something untrue in the opposing testimony. Make sure to speak up and also that you don’t get taken advantage of.

Best of luck with your trial!

If the California Divorce Guide has been a helpful resource in educating and preparing you for all of your family law needs, consider allowing one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys continue being your guiding light.