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In a perfect world, divorcing couples would agree to go their separate ways after a calm, even-handed negotiation over property division, spousal support, and child custody. Doing so would save everyone from the time, money, and emotional distress that are spent in spades on divorce courtroom litigation.
Illinois courts recognize the importance of trying to negotiate divorce issues peacefully and will encourage and even mandate some couples to attend mediation in an effort to avoid litigation. Nevertheless, not all divorce trials are avoidable, and sometimes, a court must intervene and make decisions on behalf of a couple. This is particularly likely in cases involving spousal or child abuse, financial duplicity, or in high-conflict, high-profile divorces. Here is a brief overview of what to expect if your divorce goes to trial.
Divorce trials in Illinois are heard by one judge who is the finder of fact and the ultimate decision-maker. Generally, spouses are the only witnesses, although they may call expert witnesses in certain situations. Each spouse is entitled to their own legal representation and it is generally not advisable to represent yourself, especially if your spouse has an attorney.
Unless they settle beforehand, divorce trials follow a standard process, beginning with discovery. During discovery, each spouse is required to give important documents, statements, interviews, and depositions to the other side. Attorneys guide the discovery process and request necessary items from each other. Discovery is often the longest part of the divorce process and can last for several months, especially if one spouse is uncooperative.
Once both parties have the necessary information to build their case, there is a pretrial meeting with the judge and both spouses’ attorneys. Each attorney argues their case to the judge and states their optimal outcome. Judges may try to convince spouses to settle before trial, especially if it appears that one spouse has a stronger position and new information is not likely to change the judge’s eventual ruling.
If no settlement is reached, the case proceeds to trial, during which each attorney further presents their arguments and evidence and has an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and question the other party’s evidence. Each attorney is trying to convince the judge that their client’s perspective is true and correct.
After all of the evidence has been presented and the judge has had an opportunity to resolve any questions of facts for him or herself (such as by appointing a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem to do further investigation), he or she will issue a decision on all relevant issues. Unless the judge commits an error in understanding the evidence or applying the law, this decision is final.
Although divorce trials are far less common than in the past, sometimes they are still necessary. If you anticipate a high-conflict divorce that may end up being litigated in court, schedule a free consultation with the experienced DuPage County divorce attorneys with Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio. We have experience helping couples negotiate their differences peaceably but are willing to aggressively represent you in court if necessary. Call 630-920-8855 today.