Alternatives to a trial
Divorce trials typically happen when you can't agree on a complicated issue or multiple issues in your divorce. For example, you disagree about your date of separation, who will live in the house, and think the other person is hiding their income, then you may need a trial. These are complicated issues.
For some issues you may not need a trial. For example, if you agree about everything else, but can't agree about child support (and your finances are pretty straight forward), you could ask a judge to decide the issue at a hearing by filing a Request for Order.
These are usually shorter and less complicated than a trial. If the judge can decide the issue in a hearing, then you and your spouse could use that decision along with your agreement to complete your divorce.
Preparing for a trial
If you need to have a trial, there are several steps you'll need to take to get ready.
Set a trial date
Complete your final financial disclosures
Go to a settlement conference
Research the law
Making formal requests for information from your spouse (conduct discovery)
Ask witnesses to come to court (issue a subpoena)
Plan what you'll tell the judge (your own testimony)
You may need to prepare a trial brief.
There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for a trial. This section walks you through many of these steps. But, you may find that you need additional help.
Get help with trial preparation from a lawyer
Even if you can’t afford a lawyer for your whole case, it usually makes sense to get help to prepare for a trial. Lawyers can:
Give you advice about what is likely to happen at a trial
Help you figure out whether it makes sense to settle
Help you figure out what witnesses or evidence will prove your case
Write or review your trial brief
A local law library may have good resources
They have books for people who are not attorneys that explain many of these steps in more detail. A law librarian may be able to help you find templates or show you how to do research.
Some Court Self-Help Centers or Family Law Facilitators can assist
Some courts' Family Law Facilitators or Self-Help Centers offer workshops or even have one on one help to offer you information about how to prepare for your trial. Even if they don’t, you should become familiar with their services because they can answer basic questions that may come up.