What happens in a divorce trial and how long does it take to complete? A divorce trial is a civil trial that takes place before a judge or jury. A trial before a judge is called a bench trial. Alabama’s rules of civil procedure apply. These are different from the rules of criminal procedure. A divorce trial usually takes anywhere from a day to several months to complete.
A divorce trial typically involves opening arguments by a Birmingham divorce attorney, the presentation of evidence from both sides, including the calling of witnesses, cross-examination, and closing arguments. During a divorce trial, the attorneys representing the spouses, or the spouses make claims about the division of property, including assets and debts, as well as child custody, spousal support, and child support.
The court considers all of the evidence. After consideration, it renders a decision through a final divorce decree. Both parties must comply with the decree.
Most divorce trials are open to the public. A party does not have the right to request that a divorce trial be private. A party can talk with their attorney about editing certain documents submitted as evidence. This preparation may help certain facts within the documents remain private.
A party may qualify for free legal representation if their income is low enough to warrant it. They should contact their local legal aid office to review their income and eligibility to get a cheap divorce lawyer to help them out.
A divorce attorney in Auburn or anywhere else in Alabama cannot represent both spouses in a divorce proceeding. The parties are at odds with one another. The attorney will have a conflict of interest. Each spouse must have their own legal counsel. Alternatively, the spouses can choose to represent themselves.
Spouses may make arrangements as to who will pay attorneys’ fees. If they do not and this is in dispute, the court may issue an order as to how attorneys’ fees may be paid. The court may order one spouse to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees.
Information About Witnesses
A minor child, and the people relating to them, such as a child’s psychologist, may be a witness in a divorce trial. Usually, the child themselves is not called as a witness. There is a videotaped deposition of the child prior to the trial.
A person who has knowledge relating to the divorce may be a witness. The three main types of witnesses are:
- lay witnesses
- expert witnesses and
- character witnesses.
A lay witness is a person who watched something that is relevant to the case. For example, a bank clerk who helped a husband open a bank account that the husband did not disclose to his wife would be a lay witness. An expert witness is a person with expert knowledge of a subject. A forensic accountant who could explain the value of a wife’s cryptocurrency purchase would be an expert witness.
A character witness is a person who can testify about the character of a spouse. At times, the court may not allow a family member to testify as a character witness. This is because the court may see them as inherently biased. It is a good idea to have a friend, colleague, or another party who knows the person in the lawsuit well testify. Certain character witnesses, such as a housekeeper or babysitter, may testify for both spouses.
A person who is called as a witness in a divorce case may come to court or give a deposition. They are subpoenaed and can be penalized if they do not appear. The court may also require a person to come to court and submit documents. In this situation, the court will issue a subpoena duces tecum. The “duces tecum” means “to bring with.” The court will explain which documents the witness will need to bring in the subpoena.
Usually, the spouses try to get subpoenaed documents from the party before trial. This way they can negotiate a settlement. A subpoena duces tecum supersedes any privilege the documents would otherwise have and a good family law attorney in Alabama will know how to file one for you. For example, the court could require an accountant to provide the spouse’s financial records. If a witness fails to appear or bring the required documents, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest. The court may also fine the witness.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!