What Happens if a Divorce Goes to Trial?

Family Law

The trial is the very last step in any divorce process, which means there are plenty of opportunities to avoid trial altogether. Mediation and settlement options can help resolve the details of a divorce without presenting the case in court, but this isn’t always a viable option for every couple. You can learn about alternatives to trial here. If you and your spouse are unable to resolve your differences through a settlement, you will have to go to trial to resolve any open-ended issues in your divorce. However necessary it may be, the trial process can be daunting. If you anticipate your divorce going to trial, make sure you know what to expect.

The Process Before Trial

Prior to the trial, the Washington state divorce process will include several other key steps. First, you and your spouse will need to file a petition for divorce, serve or respond to the petition, attend temporary hearings, and more. The temporary hearing may be unnecessary for some couples, but it can help resolve immediate concerns before a more permanent resolution can be reached. If, for example, you have children, a temporary hearing can help determine a temporary custody arrangement, or temporary spousal support orders could help in cases where only one spouse works.

After any temporary hearings, couples might also opt to sort out their divorce through mediation. Mediation can be a reliable, cost-effective solution for couples wishing to avoid conflict, but it might not be doable for more contentious couples. If mediation isn’t an option for you, or if you aren’t able to resolve everything in mediation, a divorce trial will be your last option.

About The Divorce Trial
When your divorce goes to trial, you will present your case to the judge at a formal trial in court. The judge will hear each spouse’s case and will make any necessary decisions regarding property division, spousal support, child custody, and more.

The Divorce Trial Process:

  1. The Petitioner Presents: The spouse who filed for divorce, the petitioner, will present their case before the judge first. This presentation will include key documents about finances, assets, properties, children, and anything else pertinent to the marriage.
  2. The Respondent Presents: After the petitioner presents, the other spouse, the respondent, will then present their documents before the court.
  3. Witnesses Appear: Each party will be able to call witnesses to stand up on their behalf. Witnesses might include neighbors, friends, co-workers, and other parties who know both spouses. If the couple has any children, witnesses might also include teachers, nannies, daycare instructors, and other important figures. The witness can vouch for either parent’s capabilities, their shortcomings, and so on. The opposing party will also have the opportunity to cross-examine each witness.
  4. Petitioner’s Rebuttal: The first presenter, the petitioner, will have the opportunity to reply to the respondent’s points in a brief rebuttal.
  5. Closing Arguments: Once all documents have been presented and all witnesses have spoken, each party will make their closing arguments. At this time, they will summarize all of the evidence presented before the judge.