Trials & Contested Hearings
Contrary to what is portrayed on television, the vast majority of divorce and custody cases do not result in a trial with attorneys arguing in front of a judge. That being said, family law trials are occasionally necessary.
The need for contested motions or trials is often unforeseeable. Cases that seem amicable sometimes go to trial while people whose cases begin with fireworks find ways to settle. As a family law firm, we recognize that mediation, early neutral evaluations, and collaborative law and cooperative law are valuable means of coming to amicable resolutions that work for some people. We also know that there are some cases that cannot be settled out of court. Matt Ludt of Stillwater, Minnesota’s Atticus Family Law was trained at one of the top trial advocacy programs in the nation and is prepared to apply his trial advocacy experience to cases that require it.
While trials are not often required, parents and other family law litigants do need to be prepared for the prospect of going to court. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, parties are faced with the decision to give in to unfair terms or to ask the court to resolve the issues. When those issues involve the safety of children, their future development, and the financial foundations upon which families depend, parties can rarely afford to give in to unfair terms.
While the idea of a trial may be scary, most contested hearings and trials are not nearly as dramatic as Hollywood would have us believe. To address the stress and anxiety that people may feel as they move toward trial, we prepare and practice with our clients so that they are comfortable with the requirements of a trial and have an idea of what to expect.
What To Expect in a Contested Divorce
At the beginning of each case, clients provide us with as much information as possible about their lives and finances. We collect this information from questionnaires, discussions during our initial meetings, and from documents, such as income tax returns, that we ask you to provide. Additional supporting information is obtained from the other party through a process known as “discovery.”
The discovery period is where we exchange supporting documents and information with the other party. It is not uncommon for this to take some time as we use a system of official questionnaires, requests for documents, and depositions of the parties, witnesses, and experts. This is also the period where assets and businesses are valued, income-earning capacity is calculated, and custody evaluations occur.
With a comprehensive understanding of the facts, we work with our clients to determine where the client stands and what strategy is best suited for their case. For some, this settlement period is comprised of negotiation by the attorneys; for others the best shot at an amicable resolution is a facilitated mediation between the parties, their attorneys, and a trained mediator. Upon any full or partial agreement, the attorneys will prepare final documents for filing with the court. The remaining issues, if any, are left for trial.
If a case does result in a Contested Divorce Trial, a judge will preside over the case; there are no jury trials in family law. The length of time required will vary by the issues involved, the documents submitted, and the number of witnesses. The time required ranges from a ½ day to several days. We present our case evidence, our witnesses, and our case theory to demonstrate to the court that you deserve what you are asking for. Meanwhile, we keep a critical eye on the other party’s witnesses, object to unfair and improper evidence, and argue the statutes, court rules, and the law to ensure that the opposing party’s proposed facts and case theory is seen by the court in a fair light.
The attorneys will have prepared and exchanged witness lists, exhibit lists, exhibits in trial binders, pre-trial motions, any relevant memoranda of law, as well as proposed court orders prior to the trial. These pre-trial requirements ensure that the trial is efficient and not needlessly protracted. These requirements are also used by Atticus Family Law to develop the strategy and tactics that will benefit our client’s case.
What to expect from a Contested Hearing
If you have a child support, custody and parenting time, post-divorce, or spousal maintenance motion, the process you can expect is very similar to the description above for a contested divorce. The difference, however, is that your motion will not require the work, time, and complexity of a divorce as there are fewer issues present; this means your case will be a more streamlined process that takes less time. With Atticus Family Law, the focus will be on the particular issues of the motion, the facts and circumstances that direct our goals, and development of the case towards a satisfactory conclusion.
Bear in mind that no two contested divorces or other family law cases are the same. In Atticus Family Law’s experience, each case has been unique with its particular details. We use our years of family law experience to tailor our approach and strategy to the facts of each case so that our clients get the service and the results they deserve in their contested divorce procedure. We will work on your behalf so you can continue with your life as normally as possible.