What Happens if a Divorce Goes to Trial?

Posted on May 23, 2022 12:23pm
What Happens if a Divorce Goes to Trial?
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.

6. The Judgment: The trial will conclude after the judge offers his or her final judgment on the case. This judgment will include orders regarding each key aspect of divorce, from child custody to asset division. Once a final judgment has been reached, an official document will record the ruling, and each party will sign. Once the final judgment has been signed by each spouse and the judge, the divorce will be final.

To learn more about the divorce procedure in Washington state, visit our Divorce Process page.

Let McKinley Irvin Help with Your Divorce Trial

If you are going through a divorce and you think you may need to go to trial, make sure you’re prepared. Our Washington state attorneys can help you through each step of the divorce process, no matter how complex or challenging it may seem. We have ample experience both settling cases and in trial, so we can ensure you know all of your options before we begin.

Ready to get started? Contact McKinley Irvin to discuss your case with our firm.
  • Best Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms
  • Super Lawyers
  • AV Preeminent
  • Puget Sound Business Journal Washington's Best Workplaces 2023
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Best Lawyers - Lawyer of the Year 2024
  • Avvo Rating 10.0
  • "My attorney was very good in and out of the courtroom. Always kept me up to date on any issues that came up. " R.R.
  • "We would highly recommend the knowledgeable and dedicated law firm of McKinley Irvin to anyone who might be seeking legal services. " P.M.
  • "I knew I had made the right decision. From the beginning of my case to conclusion, I knew I had a great team looking out for my best interest. " Christine P.
  • "I cannot imagine two people better able to represent me " M.L.
  • "I always felt my specific needs were very well represented and that I could count on David to be a trusted adviser. " T.M.
Read More