Sometimes a trial is necessary in a divorce and sometimes it is unavoidable. There may be disagreements that need to be resolved by someone. A party may want to have their “day in court” so they can have their say. In some cases, a party is too angry or emotionally upset to settle. There are many reasons why some cases will not settle. Regardless of the reason why, sometimes parties must go to trial.
Here are a few tips to consider if you are about to get into litigation.
Preparation is a key to a successful outcome for your divorce. Each party needs to gather a lot of information and help the attorneys organize and interpret it. Sometimes the parties are in the best position to figure out what their spouse (or the other party) is doing or has done. Sometimes experts are hired to help gather and interpret data. Clients who are active in gathering, organizing and explaining information can save themselves time and money.
Discovery is a formal process for gathering and exchanging information between the attorneys for each party. Much is in writing, but it also includes oral depositions where questions are answered under oath just as if the witness were in court. Inspections of documents, objects and property can also be ordered. Clients can have an important role in gathering, organizing, analyzing and explaining information. There are time deadlines for producing information and responses usually have to be updated later as new information becomes available.
If there's going to be a hearing or trial, each side usually needs to have witnesses available to testify about a variety of topics. Sometimes, experts are needed, especially on financial or parent-child issues. Often, “lay witnesses” (family, friends, acquaintances, etc.) can testify about what they personally know that relates to a contested issue. On temporary matters in Tarrant County, judges often severely limit the number of witnesses allowed to testify. Your attorney will help you determine what witnesses will be helpful to your case.
When we need witnesses, a letter from someone will not work. It is hearsay and is not admissible.
Texas is one of the few states that permits a jury to decide some issues in a family law case. A jury is sometimes used in a child custody case, a suit to terminate parental rights or in some property issues. You should check with your attorney to find out if a jury could be used and whether it would be advisable.
Just so you know, using a jury means a longer, slower trial and it takes longer to schedule a jury trial because of the extra time commitment.
In Tarrant County, Texas, it usually takes a long time to get to a final hearing if there needs to be a trial. It is usually at least a year after the suit is filed before it reaches trial. In most cases, it is better to settle than wait around for a trial. On the other hand, if someone doesn't really want a divorce or other matter to be finalized, waiting for a trial date will buy some time.
Most family law matters are billed on the basis of the hours worked because of tradition and the difficulty of estimating/predicting what will need to be done. Situations and needs change and there's often little one can do to control the other party. If another party is “crazy” or just plain mad, they can cause a lot of trouble, which translates into greater cost for everyone.
Your attorney will provide much more detailed information to you on these topics as you prepare for court. It helps to come to meetings with questions for your attorney. This is not a time to sit back and just turn everything over to the attorney. You can get a better, less-expensive result by doing part of the work yourself and being prepared for meetings and court.