This article covers the subject of Florida Divorce trials.
If you and your spouse cannot settle all of the issues in your divorce, you can elect to have the issues still in controversy decided by a divorce court judge. Before the judge makes any decisions, each spouse has the opportunity to testify and present evidence to the judge in a final court hearing of the case, which can range in duration from several hours to several days. The name of this final hearing is commonly referred to as a “trial.”
A Florida Divorce Trial is not that much different than any other type of trial. The primary exception, however, is that with divorce court trials in most jurisdictions, all issues are determined by a judge. There is no jury.
A Florida Divorce Trial starts like any other trial with each spouse’s lawyer presenting opening statements. Notably, the spouse who filed for divorce first gets the “first say” in the opening statements.
After opening statements, the presentation of witnesses and evidence begins. As with opening statements, the spouse who filed for divorce first gets the first opportunity to call all of their witnesses to testify and present their evidence, which is followed by the other spouse doing the same. In many Florida Divorce Trials, the only witnesses will be each spouse and possibly a forensic accountant, although the more complicated cases or child custody cases can involve more witnesses. Depending on the jurisdiction and judge, each spouse may also get the opportunity to present rebuttal witnesses and rebuttal evidence.
Similar to jury trials, Florida Divorce Trials also end with closing arguments, with the spouse who was first to file for divorce getting to starting the closing arguments, and giving the final word in a rebuttal argument. However, unlike jury trials, there will rarely be any “verdict” announced at the end of trial. Instead, the divorce court judges will almost always issue a written ruling and explanation of their decisions on each contested issue.
While many judges strive to release their written rulings quickly, it is not unheard of for some judges to take several months or even over a year to issue their written decision.
Given the delays and expenses inherent with having issues in your divorce determined by a divorce court judge after a full blown trial, the Best Divorce strategies are often designed to avoid trial. Trials are usually appropriate only when the difference between a fair settlement and the other spouse’s settlement position justifies the time and expense involved.
Furthermore, there is a value to avoiding trials, as sometimes divorce court judges make honest mistakes or render unfair decisions. When this happens, it is necessary to continue paying lawyers to pursue a divorce court appeal, a topic that is covered here in more detail.