Preparing for a Contested Divorce Hearing or Trial in Florida
Despite multiple attempts at settling your case, you and your spouse just cannot see eye-to-eye and there are now multiple contested issues set for hearing or trial before a judge. There are several main things to consider to build your best case to present before a family law judge at the hearing or trial.
What Is Your End Goal?
Before any hearing or trial, you should sit down with your attorney and determine what your goals are and what results you would like to achieve. For example if minor children are involved and you are seeking child support from your spouse you should understand the child support guidelines and have a support amount ready to propose to the judge. You should also have a reasonable time-sharing schedule (as well as a parenting plan if a final hearing) to propose to the court.
What Documents Support Your Case?
To help you prepare for your upcoming court date, you should gather any and all documents that help support your claim depending on the nature of your hearing or trial. For example, for a child support hearing, you will want to review your financial affidavit and disclosure statement for accuracy and gather any tax returns and paystubs. The accuracy of your financial affidavit and disclosure statement can be particularly important because obvious inaccuracies can diminish your credibility with the judge.
For a custody hearing, you may be asked to gather any documents evidencing past shared parenting decision-making for the children, such as copies of useful texts and emails. These documents along with any formal reports that have been prepared by a custody evaluator may ultimately be used by your attorney in court for presentation as evidence to the judge (known as “exhibits” in legal jargon”).
Aside from these exhibits to discuss you may also need to understand what rules of evidence your attorney will have to use to introduce these exhibits into evidence at the hearing/trial.
Who Will Testify On Your Behalf?
Aside from you and your spouse you should consider if there are any other people who can help testify on your behalf. For custody cases, you will want to consider asking people who are familiar with your relationship (as well as your spouse’s) with your children who can testify as to your character and your interactions with your children. Florida law requires parties to obtain court approval prior to allowing your children to actually testify in a hearing. Consequently, if you want your child to testify before the judge you must file the appropriate motion prior to your hearing/trial. Courts typically will permit children to testify through an “in camera examination” where a child talks to the judge in the judge’s office (called “chambers”) with a court reporter present.
Contact Us For Assistance
Preparing for a hearing or trial is a difficult and daunting task for many people. The experienced Winter Park family law attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. can help you gather all the documents and prepare exhibit lists and witness lists needed for trial. Contact us today for a free consultation.