How to Prepare for a Divorce Hearing

By Rob Jennings J.D.

Divorce can be a tremendously traumatic experience, but it becomes even more difficult when it's contested. Litigating issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support or property division can require not only a significant financial sacrifice, but an emotional one as well. Especially when you're representing yourself, the divorce litigation process can seem intimidating. Although representing yourself in a contested divorce action is not ideal, taking the time to prepare yourself for hearings in your case can bring you both peace of mind and better results.

Divorce can be a tremendously traumatic experience, but it becomes even more difficult when it's contested. Litigating issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support or property division can require not only a significant financial sacrifice, but an emotional one as well. Especially when you're representing yourself, the divorce litigation process can seem intimidating. Although representing yourself in a contested divorce action is not ideal, taking the time to prepare yourself for hearings in your case can bring you both peace of mind and better results.

Step 1

Dig up as much evidence as possible in discovery before your hearing. Discovery is the part of a civil lawsuit where each party uncovers evidence that might have some bearing on the case. Exactly what discovery techniques are available to you--and how far in advance of your hearing you have to roll them out--depends largely upon the requirements of your state's rules of civil procedure. For the do-it-yourself-er, the simplest discovery techniques tend to be interrogatories--written questions the other side must answer--and document production requests. In document production requests, you can ask the other side to produce specific documents or entire categories of documents, such as bank or credit card statements, for a certain time period. These don't have to be written in some complex form; just ask the question or ask for the document in writing and make it clear that you're doing it under your state's interrogatory or document production request rule. If you don't want to do this or feel like you can't, don't despair; many lawyers do little or no discovery, so you won't necessarily come up short.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 2

Review the law applicable to the issues which you will be hearing. If you're fighting an alimony case, read your state's alimony statute; if you're fighting property division, read the statutes on property division. These statutes will set forth the specific law on what you have to show--or prevent the other side from showing--in order to prevail. Statutory law isn't hard to find; these days, most legislatures have every statute on the books available for free on the Internet. Go to your legislature's home page, look for something like "general statutes" or "code of laws" and page through the table of contents until you find the section on family law. This may be expressed as something like "Family Law" or "Domestic Relations."

Step 3

Review all of the evidence you managed to get your hands on and any applicable statutes a day or two before the hearing. You'll want everything to be fresh and clear in your mind so that you'll have no trouble accessing it when something comes up at trial. Organize your materials so that if you need to whip something out, you'll be able to find it quickly.

Step 4

Develop a list of points you need to make in your case and practice your own testimony. Develop a list of questions for all of your own witnesses, and map out areas of cross-examination for the other side's witnesses. Make a checklist of points you want to score at trial, and mark them off as you make each one.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Prepare for Case Management in Divorce

References

Related articles

Who Picks Up & Drops Off a Child in a Divorce?

Courts really don't want to take control of every minute aspect of your life, even when you divorce and have kids. Judges prefer that you come up with your own parenting plan, which might include what parent will drop off the children and who will pick them up for visitation. Sometimes, however, parents just can't agree, so the court will get involved, making a ruling based on your family's unique circumstances and the best interests of the children.

Important Tips for Preparing for Child Custody & Divorce

In divorce, child custody cases can be highly contentious and incredibly damaging to children. If you are preparing to seek custody or visitation with your child, it's wise to hire a family law attorney who can guide you through the process in your state. While state laws vary somewhat, all states use a "best interests of the child" standard that aims to take into account the specific needs of each child and family. Regardless of the state in which you reside, there are steps you can take to strengthen your case and protect your children.

What to Expect in a Contested Divorce

When a couple cannot come to an agreement in a divorce case, a contentious and expensive process is likely to begin. This process may be long, you may have to appear in court and testify, and you should expect to pay more than you would like to in attorney fees.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Tips on Giving a Deposition for a Divorce

Divorce cases can be much like other civil lawsuits, and depositions can be used in divorces like they are in other ...

What Not to Say When Tesifying in Child Custody

Testifying can be terrifying when everything hangs in the balance and so much depends on your words. If you're ...

How to Refute Alimony

Alimony consists of payments that a supporting spouse makes to a dependent spouse in order to maintain the standard of ...

How to Prepare for a Divorce Trial

When two people weave all aspects of their lives together in marriage, separating the strands so they can divorce can ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED