When you decide on a divorce, you may have expected you and your spouse to work out the challenges you were facing and simply have an agreement worked out and go to court and have your divorce finalized. Unfortunately, things do not always work out the way we expect.
When it becomes impossible for you and your spouse to work out the contours of your divorce, sometimes having to have a trial is necessary. The first thing you should understand is a divorce trial is public and there are no jurors, only a judge who will render his final decision on contested issues.
Prior to a trial, you should ask your attorney what the rules are pertaining to the trial. Oftentimes, there are specific rules which may apply to a specific county, department, or judge. These rules often pertain to motions, presentation of evidence, decorum inside the courtroom. Make sure you understand all of these before you go to trial.
Common California Divorce Issues to be Resolved in Trials
While every divorce trial is different, there are upwards of seven issues which a judge may have to decide upon during a divorce trial. These include custody and parenting time, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, property division, and business values and division. Each situation is unique and not all may apply in your specific divorce trial.
The more complex the issues, the longer the trial. If you and your spouse were able to work out some of these issues before hand, or if they do not apply to your case, the trial will go more quickly. Having an attorney who is knowledgeable about trials is important and that is why so many people facing a divorce trial turn to The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law.
Child Custody and Parenting During Divorce Trials
One of the most contentious issues couples deal with during a divorce proceeding is their children. Both parents believe they are the most capable of caring for their child. When presenting a case before a judge for custody, your attorney will approach the court purely with facts, and without the emotion that creates so many problems.
In general, most custody disputes are settled outside of court. However, there are instances including allegations of child abuse, substance abuse, and domestic violence which can result in custody disputes going into court. The court is interested in learning what is in the child’s best interest to ensure their safety, health, and education. Typically, in the case of younger children, the judge will appoint a separate attorney for the child (or children). For older children, the judge may ask to speak with them privately.
It is important to note the judge’s ruling will be final and will include a plan for the other parent to visit the child in cases where physical custody is awarded to one parent. In all cases of custody, “he said, she said” testimony is irrelevant. Only documented proof may be presented to the court.
Divorce Trials and Child Support Payments
California has specific statutes which govern how child support is to be handled across the state. Keep in mind, a judge may change these guidelines but must document the reason for the changes. Since the legislature has a process in place for determining child support, there are specific issues which may lead to a dispute between parents. These include income disputes, failure to secure employment disputes, and less commonly, disputes over parenting time.
Spousal Support in California
Alimony or spousal support orders are based on the length of marriage as well as the financial capacity of each spouse. In general, during the trial phase and prior to a judgment being issued, the court will order alimony based on the length of the marriage. Alimony may be temporary and may have a specific ending date or may be permanent and expire only upon a modification, the death of a spouse, or the spouse receiving alimony remarriage.
Other Unresolved Issues in California Divorces
While not always the case, in most divorces, issues pertaining to attorney fees, property division, and business values and division are fairly straightforward. Since California is a community property state, property which was obtained during the marriage, with very few exceptions, will be divided equally between the two parties.
In cases where there is a business involved, there will have to be experts who properly value the business and determine what percentage, if any, the non-participants in the business should be awarded. Finally, attorney fees are usually paid by the person who has hired the attorney and only in limited circumstances would the court order the other party to pay their spouse’s attorney fees.
Judge Will Render a Final Decision
After the judge has heard evidence presented by both parties and heard from the necessary witnesses and experts, they will render their final decision. The decision is handled in one of three ways:
- Judge decides immediately and renders judgment at the end of the trial.
- A future court ruling date is provided to the two spouses and their attorneys at which time the ruling is given.
- The court may file a final decision in writing by the attorney representing the spouses, or the spouses directly when they are not represented.
It is not unusual for a judge to ask the attorney representing one of the spouses to prepare the final order.
As you can see, divorces in California can be very complicated. It is never a good idea when you are embroiled in a dispute with your spouse, potentially forcing your divorce case to trial to attempt to represent yourself. There are too many issues which must be dealt with and having an experienced attorney on your side is crucial to ensuring the best outcome.
When you are facing a divorce and you need someone who is going to help you through the process, even if that process involves a divorce trial, contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law (619) 299-9780 or use our online contact form. We will do everything possible to help make this process as easy for you as possible.