Getting a divorce is rarely easy. Once your relationship with your spouse has broken down to the point that you no longer want to be married, the two of you will probably not want to work together to make decisions about how matters will be handled during the end of your marriage. An already strained relationship can make it seem impossible to come to any agreements and dissolve your marriage peaceably without the need to settle matters in the courtroom.

Unfortunately, divorce involves a multitude of complex legal, financial, and personal issues that need to be resolved before the process can be completed. Many of these concerns are related to money and property. Assets and debts will need to be divided in a way that is fair to both spouses, and multiple different types of property may need to be considered, including the marital home, family businesses owned by one or both spouses, and retirement accounts or pensions in either spouse’s name. Spousal maintenance, which is sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal support, may also be a factor if one spouse earns a significantly higher income than the other.

Matters related to a couple’s children are another primary concern that will need to be addressed during divorce, and custody battles can become especially contentious. Parents will not only need to determine how they will divide or share the responsibility of making decisions about child-related issues such as education and healthcare, but they will also need to create workable schedules for when children will stay with each parent. They may also need to address parenting-related issues such as transportation for children or communication between children and parents.

Reaching an agreement on all of these issues can be difficult even when a couple gets along well enough to have calm, rational discussions with each other. However, the strong emotions involved in a divorce may make it impossible to compromise, and it may be necessary to take a divorce case to trial to have a judge make the final decisions. In these cases, it is important to work with a DuPage County divorce attorney who can provide representation during divorce litigation. You should also be sure to understand the different steps followed before and during a divorce trial.

1. Petition

The divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition to dissolve their marriage. The other spouse will then be required to file a response or a counter-petition of their own. In addition to stating the intent to end the marriage, a petition will usually include requests for temporary relief which ask for decisions to be made about issues such as child custody, possession of certain property, or spousal support while the divorce case is ongoing. Either party can also file petitions for temporary relief at any point during the divorce process, and if these requests are granted, temporary court orders will be issued that will remain in effect until the divorce is finalized (unless an order is overruled by a later temporary divorce order).

2. Discovery

Once the divorce process begins, the spouses are required to make a disclosure to each other of all relevant information related to their marriage and their respective financial situations. This disclosure must be complete and honest, and it should include all marital and non-marital assets and debts and all sources of income. If either spouse attempts to conceal assets or misreport income, the other spouse may take action to ensure that all relevant financial details are considered when making decisions about property division, spousal maintenance, child support, or other issues.

3. Pre-Trial Conference

In most cases, spouses are encouraged to work together to reach a settlement before taking a case to trial, and a judge may order them to participate in mediation. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to litigation. Before the beginning of the trial, each party will file a pre-trial memorandum describing the arguments that will be made, the evidence that will be presented, and the witnesses that will be called. The judge will then hold a pre-trial conference with both spouses’ attorneys. During this conference, the judge will review the issues that need to be decided and the arguments each party will be making. They may offer suggestions about how certain issues could be resolved while indicating how they may rule, in hopes that the parties may be able to reach a settlement without the need to proceed to trial. If a settlement still cannot be reached after the pre-trial conference, the trial will be held.

4. Divorce Trial

A divorce trial will begin with each party’s attorney making opening statements that describe the issues that need to be resolved and the reasons why the judge should rule in their client’s favor. Each party will then make their case by presenting evidence and calling witnesses. Both spouses may provide testimony, and other witnesses may include family members, doctors or therapists who have treated the spouses or their children, child custody experts, or financial advisors. Both parties’ attorneys will have the opportunity to question or cross-examine witnesses. Once all arguments have been made by both sides, each party’s attorney will provide a closing statement that sums up their arguments and the conclusions that they believe the judge should reach.

6. Judgment

After hearing all of the arguments and reviewing the evidence or other relevant information, the judge will make a final decision on all of the outstanding issues in the case. Their decisions will be written down in a final divorce judgment, and once this judgment is issued, the couple’s marriage will be officially dissolved. A divorce judgment is a legally-binding court order, and both spouses will be required to follow its terms going forward, even if they do not agree with the decisions that were made. Violations of a divorce judgment could result in a person being held in contempt of court and facing penalties such as fines, restrictions on parental responsibilities or parenting time, interest on any unpaid child support or spousal maintenance, or even jail time.

Because the decisions made during a divorce trial can affect your life for many years to come, you will want to be sure you are represented by an attorney who is experienced in divorce litigation. At SBK Law Group, our Downers Grove divorce lawyers can help you take the right steps to prepare for a divorce trial, and we will fight to protect your rights and interests from the beginning to the end of your case.

Author's Bio: 

Attorney Sean P. Sullivan has over 10 years of experience in the fields of family law and business law. He and the DuPage County divorce attorneys of SBK Law Group provide dedicated representation for clients, helping them resolve highly contested disputes and find effective solutions to their legal issues.