13 Steps To Prepare You For Trial

13 Steps To Prepare You For Trial
  1. Work with your attorney to prepare your trial notebook. A trial notebook contains all the exhibits that you plan to present to the court. For example, you should have a current bank account statement for each account, a current mortgage statement for each mortgage, the current Blue Book Valuation of each vehicle. It is common to have 40-50 exhibits.
  2. Subpoena documents and prepare your witnesses at least 30 days ahead. Work with your attorney to make sure the subpoenas are served properly and according to the law. Make sure all witnesses are disclosed to the other side. Work with your attorney to develop a strategy of what witnesses will say that can be used to prove or disprove. Make sure that whatever the witness will be testifying about, the substance will add to your case and not just repeat the same old thing.
  3. Work with your attorney on your direct examination and the examination of your witnesses (examination just means questions). I ask my clients to send me a list of all the questions and/or issues that they want me to cover. I utilize an outline of the issues I want to cover.
  4. Work with your attorney on the cross-examination of your spouse and witnesses that your spouse’s attorney will have to testify. I ask my clients to send me a list of questions and/or issues that they want me to cover and know the other side will cover. I add these to an outline and work the outline until the moment of trial.
  5. Figure out what is most important to you and what is least as far as assets and liabilities. Figure out what will be most important to your wife. Prioritize and develop Plan A, B and C. Think about what your life will look like the day after the divorce is over.
  6. Figure out personal property items you want and figure out how the two parties can divide their things. You really don’t want the court getting involved in who gets the dishes. This is a good way to upset very busy court officials and a big waste of time.
  7. Remember that there are always three different opinions of your case – yours, your spouse’s and the judge’s or magistrate's opinion. Therefore, don’t be quite so sure that there is no way anyone can see the case going in anyone’s favor other than yours.
  8. Prepare yourself to be willing to give and take. Experience tells me that often family law judges and magistrates will make sure that each party is unhappy about a result.
  9. If possible, talk to your wife about settling your case. Remember, however, that you must have your attorney review all proposals. A better idea is to talk to your attorney first about the parameters of any settlement discussions with your spouse and then follow up with the attorney.
  10. Try to look ahead to one, three, five, 10 years or more as you think about finalizing your divorce. There are lots of things to think about. Consult with your attorney and your financial advisor before you go to court.
  11. Be prepared for continuances. Continuances are when the court date is canceled. Cancellations can be for many reasons- Magistrate went home sick, another attorney has a previous engagement, etc. The bigger the court system, the more chance for delays.
  12. Do not expect the magistrate or judge to read all of your documents and understand everything that is going on with your case. The truth of the matter is that most judges and magistrates hardly have the time to open your file until that day of trial and it will be up to your attorney to get the judge up to speed if necessary. Ask your attorney what really to expect.
  13. Don't try to change the court system. It can be very, very frustrating at times. Stay the course and stick to your goal. The court system is full of holes and yet, it is the best legal system in the world.
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