Going to Court to resolve your divorce can be a daunting process that impacts the most important aspects of your life. It is important to select an experience family law attorney who can guide you through the Permanent Orders process and to relieve some of the stresses associated with going to Court.
You can reach an agreement at any time before going to Court. However, when parties are unable to come to an agreement before their hearing date, you will attend what is called a Permanent Orders Hearing. This hearing is set in order to resolve all matters in your divorce case, including division of property and resolving other financial matters (child support and maintenance) and allocating parental responsibilities (parenting time and decision-making).
Prior to the hearing, you and your attorney will need to determine what you will be asking for from the court (aka your “trial position). After determining what your desired best outcome is, you will then determine which witnesses and exhibits will be most helpful to present at your hearing.
Witnesses: Witnesses provide testimony about their first-hand knowledge of events or circumstances. You will have provided an exhaustive list of potential witnesses to the Court. However, to prepare for trial, you and your attorney will want to narrow down witnesses to only those who can provide the most helpful information. Your time in Court is limited, so your choice of witnesses to call should be strategic.
Both you and your spouse will also present testimony and are witnesses in your case. Your attorney will work to prepare you to testify in Court. Different cases call for different levels of testimony preparation. This often depends on your comfort level, on the complexity of the case, and on the amount of ground that you are going to have to cover in your testimony.
Exhibits: The exhibits you and your attorney choose to present will be documents/ videos/ recordings/ photos/ etc. that directly address the issues pending before the court (division of assets, spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time). Depending on the length of your hearing, you and your attorney will work strategically to introduce exhibits that support your best possible outcome.
Position Statements: Prior to your hearing, your attorney will work with the Opposing Counsel to put together a “Joint Trial Management Certificate” or “JTMC.” This document will outline for the Court your respective positions (aka what you are asking the Court to do). The Joint Trial Management Certificate (or JTMC) often serves as an opening statement for the Court regarding your position on all of the issues, so it is important to carefully review your positions with your attorney prior to the document being filed. This is your first opportunity to “make your case” to the Court. Judges generally review these documents carefully before the trial.
Make sure that you and your attorney have discussed where to meet and when, prior to your hearing. When you arrive in the Courtroom, you will sit with your attorney at the designated tables for Petitioner or Respondent. Your counsel will enter his or her appearance and may proceed to make an opening statement to the Court.
The Petitioner will present their case first, calling witnesses and presenting evidence. When you testify, you will most likely be asked to sit up at the witness stand, in a “box” next to the judge. At that time, you will be sworn in, and your attorney will begin asking you questions. This is called Direct Examination. Generally, your attorney will ask you open-ended questions that give you the opportunity to share your story and position. Your attorney may also ask for you to look at documents contained in an exhibit notebook, which will be on the stand with you.
Once your attorney has finished asking you questions, the other side will have a chance to ask you questions. This is called cross examination. Typically, when you are being cross examined, you will be asked a series of “yes” or “no” questions. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine (ask “yes” or “no” questions) any witnesses called by opposing counsel.
Once both sides have presented their case, the judge or magistrate may allow for a closing argument to be made by either side. Sometimes, closing arguments can be made in written form and will be submitted to the court after the hearing. The judge or magistrate may then issue its findings and orders when you are there in the courtroom or may do so in writing or over the phone after the hearing has concluded and after the Court has had time to deliberate on the evidence that was presented.
Going to trial is a learned skill. Selecting an attorney who you are comfortable with guiding you through a hearing is critical. Our team of attorneys is ready and able to guide you through the Permanent Orders process. The attorneys at GEM Family Law can assist you and provide the helping hand you need. Call 303-317-3239 to schedule your free consultation today.
Authored by: Anthony Zarsky, Esq.