Many people going through a divorce feel the words “pre-trial” or “pre-settlement” are very intimidating. Adding this stress on top of the “normal” stresses of the divorce can leave you in a very uncertain state. It can be extremely helpful to speak to an attorney from The Law Place in order to get more information about your pre-trial or pre-settlement hearings. Our attorneys are experienced in every facet of family law, and can skillfully manage your divorce from start to finish.
What is a Pre-Trial Hearing?
Should it become obvious that your spouse is unwilling to settle your divorce reasonably, a pre-trial hearing can enable you to weigh the risks of trial versus a settlement. To begin with, pre-trial hearings are usually not as frightening as they sound rather are more informal conferences between you, your spouse and your respective attorneys, with a judge presiding. The hearing may be held in the judge’s chambers or office rather than the courtroom. The goal of a pre-trial hearing is to give you and your spouse a final chance to settle your case as well as giving you insights into how the judge may rule if your divorce goes to trial.
These hearings generally take place toward the end of your divorce, after you and your spouse have been unable to come to mutually acceptable agreements regarding your marital assets or the extent of your marital debt. Your attorney has likely been gathering information via discovery methods such as interrogatories or subpoenas and this information will be a part of the hearing. An interrogatory is a written list of questions that must be answered under penalty of perjury. Your attorney may send interrogatories to your spouse’s attorney, those questions will be answered and returned, possibly with questions of their own, which you must answer and return.
The pre-trial judge will determine which issues are still being contested, and may place deadlines on discovery and depositions if those items have not been forthcoming. Once the pre-trial hearing or conference begins, both sides will get a chance to present their “side,” explaining what they want the judge to order in the divorce, should it go to trial, and why. The attorneys may present discovery documentation ahead of time, explaining the positions of their clients in a written memorandum. The judge will carefully listen to each side, then will state how he will rule on the particular issues should it go to trial—and assuming no new information is unearthed which could potentially change his or her mind.
Following a pre-trial hearing, you will generally have a very good idea of how the judge will rule on your issues should you continue to trial. If it turns out to be unlikely you will receive what you are seeking, you may decide not to spend the time and money on a trial—and vice versa in the case of your spouse. Once your pre-trial hearing or conference has concluded, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will try once more to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a trial. You do not have to reach a final settlement immediately following the pre-trial hearing, but can—and probably should—take some time to think about what the judge said. If necessary, the judge will set a trial date, and you will have until that date to continue to attempt to reach an agreement with your spouse.
Pre-trial hearings and pre-settlement conferences can be important tools in resolving your divorce issues. Having an attorney from The Law Place can ensure these hearings and conferences go smoothly, and that they will benefit your ultimate goals for your divorce.