Divorce Trial: What to Expect and How to Prepare


In many cases, married couples can resolve their issues and end their marriage outside the courtroom, saving both time and money. However, some couples find it challenging to reach agreements, necessitating a divorce trial where a judge makes the final decisions. This article explores what a divorce trial is, why some couples opt for it, and how to prepare for one.

You’re not required to go to court to end your marriage

What is a divorce trial?

A divorce trial is a legal process in which a couple’s issues are examined and decided upon by a judge. Both parties are represented by lawyers who spend months preparing evidence, statements, and positions for the trial. Some couples find common ground before trial and settle key terms without going to court. However, others cannot agree, leading to a courtroom setting where a judge makes the final decisions about the split. Although couples can appeal the judge’s decisions, most choose to amend their agreements later through court-filed documents. While a trial provides a definitive end to a marriage, it is generally the most expensive method due to the hourly charges of lawyers and the time-consuming process.

Key facts about divorce trials

Several key statistics shed light on the prevalence and outcomes of divorce trials. For instance, more than 20% of first marriages end in divorce within the first five years. Surprisingly, over 90% of divorce cases are settled before ever going to trial, often through mediation or settlements. Court-based divorces typically take 18 months or longer, significantly longer than other methods of divorce. On average, a court-based divorce costs approximately $12,900, with the bulk of the fees paid to lawyers.

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Why do couples go to court?

While no one wants to go through an unpleasant process like divorce, sometimes it is the only option. Certain factors may lead to more challenging divorces that necessitate court intervention. These factors include significant conflict, the inability to negotiate or agree on terms, a history of abuse, and complex estates, including retirement accounts. In such cases, heading to court might be the best option to reach a resolution and move forward to a single life.

How to prepare for a successful divorce trial

Preparing for a divorce trial is a lengthy and complex process, but your lawyer will be there to guide you every step of the way. Staying organized is crucial as you generate plenty of paperwork during the divorce process. Limiting direct contact with your spouse and focusing on your goals will help your lawyer build a strong case tailored to your needs. Being available for appointments and taking care of your physical and mental well-being are essential during this stressful time.

What must be finished before the trial starts?

Before the trial commences, several critical tasks should be completed. Firstly, you need to file for divorce to initiate the trial process. Next, both parties must share financial documents to establish the financial situation of each spouse. Depositions, where both parties answer formal questions, are also part of the preparation. Seeking the expertise of professionals like accountants, therapists, or auditors can help strengthen your case. Finally, rehearsing what you’ll say in court will boost your confidence during the trial. Additionally, your lawyer may propose mediation or settlement agreements as alternatives to a trial.

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What to expect at your divorce trial

During a divorce trial, several steps are taken to reach a final ruling. Both parties start with opening statements, outlining their general expectations from the process. Witness examinations follow, where the petitioner and their witnesses present their cases, and the opposing party can ask follow-up questions. Closing statements are crucial, summarizing the presented cases and requesting the judge’s ruling. Ultimately, the judge makes the final decision, marking the end of the trial.

What happens after the trial?

Once the trial is concluded, formal paperwork will be prepared, finalizing the divorce. Both you and your partner must sign these documents, after which they are stamped and filed, officially ending your marriage.


Divorce trials are the last resort for couples who cannot settle their differences through alternative methods. While they can be costly and time-consuming, they provide a definitive end to a marriage. It’s essential to prepare thoroughly with the guidance of your lawyer to present your case effectively in court. Divorce is never an easy process, but with the right support and preparation, you can navigate it successfully.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Is a divorce trial the only way to end a marriage? No, many couples settle their differences outside the courtroom through mediation or settlements.
  2. How long does a divorce trial typically take? Court-based divorces can take around 18 months or longer to reach a resolution.
  3. What is the cost of a court-based divorce? On average, a court-based divorce costs approximately $12,900, with lawyer fees being a significant portion of the expenses.
  4. Can I avoid a divorce trial? If both parties can come to an agreement, a trial can be avoided through mediation or settlement agreements.
  5. Is it normal to feel overwhelmed during a divorce trial? Yes, divorce trials can be emotionally and mentally taxing. It’s crucial to take care of your well-being during this time.
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