EP 165: What is a divorce hearing, and how is it different from a trial?

When you go to court, you may be going for a hearing or for a trial, and there are differences between the two. This episode will explain what happens in each situation.

Going to court is almost never like what you see on television. In particular, the process of going to court is not as glamorous as it seems on television.
When you go to court for a hearing, a judge will look at evidence and make a decision about a specific issue in the divorce. That evidence could be written documents, records, testimony, financial affidavits, and so on. The judge will make a decision on the issue in question after hearing the evidence. A hearing usually occurs while a case is still going on. It is not intended to resolve every issue in a case. A hearing can be for temporary issues, like temporary custody or spousal support. They may be used for a specific issue in discovery.

What happens at a hearing? You go to a court and go before a judge. Judges can vary greatly in age, race and background. Sometimes they are multidisciplinary, so they may hear other types of cases like criminal cases or business disputes. When you get to the court, you will wait outside the courtroom until you are called. Often, your attorneys will do the talking, although you may be asked questions or called to testify.

Trials are very different. Trials are more involved, and therefore, much more expensive. In a trial, a judge will make the final decision on many issues in the divorce, so the stakes are high. Not all trials are complicated, but many are. In some cases, people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their trial even if they don’t really have that much money to spend.

In a trial, you will present your evidence. The trial may last a day or a week, depending on your circumstances and local court rules. The court looks at the various issues in the divorce and resolves them. You may even have a trial with a jury, depending on your state, although it’s rare.

When you go to court, whether it be for a hearing or a trial, be aware that it will be expensive. The more work you can do up front, the better off you will be. If you are going to court, be prepared and understand what is at stake. Make sure to leave a good impression and put yourself in the best position possible.

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