Perhaps you tried mediation and it failed. Or, negotiating with your spouse just wasn’t a possibility in the first place. Whatever the reason, you now find yourself facing a divorce trial. Admittedly, the prospect of going before a judge can be stressful, but it is not the end of the world. Here are a few ways to prepare for your day in court:
Gather all of your documents
You certainly do not want to be rushing around the night before your trial begins looking for your income tax returns from 2013. As soon as you can, begin getting together all of the relevant paperwork that will help your case. If you have financial issues in your divorce, be sure that you have your paystubs, W-2s, tax documents, etc. at your fingertips. [See our Financial Checklist for a printable list of items to collect.]
Of course, your attorney will already have provided your spouse’s attorney with all documents that you will use during your trial. But you want to be sure that you have easy access to your papers, as well, in case a question about one of the documents comes up during trial. Even if you think the paperwork is not important, put it aside, anyway. You can discuss its relevance with your attorney prior to court.
Meet with your attorney
Don’t want until the last minute to sit down with your family law attorney to discuss your trial strategy, so you know how to prepare yourself and so you can fully participate in your divorce case. What witnesses will you be calling to testify on your behalf? Have you prepared yourself for your own testimony? Did you let your attorney know your opinions on how your spouse will testify regarding certain issues? Take some time with your attorney to go over the process and the procedures and to review your evidence, so that you are familiar and set to move forward with the trial confidently. Feeling unprepared will certainly lead to your feeling stress or anxiety. Remember, a certain level of apprehension is natural, but having all of your ducks in a row will reduce that tension and leave you feeling strong and assured.
Don’t hyper focus on the trial
Being prepared is great. Obsessing over your divorce trial before it begins is not healthy and will lead to mounting pressure that you simply do not need. Once you have gathered all of your evidence and met with your divorce attorney, relax and step away for a bit. Meet up with some friends for a relaxing night out, go for a run, read a funny book, whatever it takes to relax you and get your mind off the trial. Playing every possible scenario over and over in your mind will only serve to stress you out further. Take some time for yourself. If you feel like you need a safe space to vent or some extra support, consider talking with a therapist who is experienced in helping people through divorce and family reorganization.
Control Your Emotions
Remind yourself before you get to court that, even though this is an emotional time, you should not let your emotions show in the courtroom. Even if you are experiencing a high level of animosity towards your soon-to-be ex, venting that animosity in the courtroom in front of the judge will not serve you well, at all and may even damage your credibility in the judge’s eyes. If you are going to be cross-examined by your spouse’s attorney, do a little role playing with your attorney beforehand, so you can practice how to respond to the attorney’s questions without emotion. You never want to be seen by the court as angry, irrational or unreasonable. Again, if you need a forum to let out your anger or resentment, confide in a good friend or family member or consider talking with a trained therapist.
Remember you still may be able to settle
Even though your case has gotten this far, it is still a possibility that you will be able to settle your divorce case. Parties are able to settle their own cases and come up with their own marital settlement agreement right up until the point that the judge gives his or her decision, at the very end of the trial. So, do not give up hope that you and your spouse may still be able to negotiate a reasonable agreement even if the divorce trial is already underway. Your spouse’s attorney may come with an offer of settlement at any time and your attorney may suggest or recommend a settlement, as well. Be guided by your attorney’s knowledge and experience, but be sure that whatever offer of settlement is put out there is fair and one that you can live with. Do not agree to any settlement simply because you do not want to go forward with a trial.
Preparation and staying calm and focused are the keys. Working with your attorney to get you ready and get you confident will help you to get through your divorce trial with less stress and more poise!
If you need further information regarding divorce or any other area of family law, please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential consultation with one of our compassionate and qualified family law attorneys.