There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding family court and how the trial procedures work. If you are not careful, those misunderstandings could cost you a lot of time, money and heartache, so getting the advice of an expert family law attorney is critical.
While most married couples start off with great intentions, it is clear that good intentions are not enough to keep those unions together. With half of all marriages ending in divorce, it is easy to see why family courts are so busy.
When marriages do ultimately end in divorce, the best-case scenario is for both parties to come to an amicable agreement. In a perfect world, this would be how all divorce proceedings would play out, but in the real world, it is often a family court that decides on the disposition of the marital assets, the custody of children and the other issues in the dissolution of the marriage.
Divorce Cases and Family Court
When the two parties cannot agree on the division of marital assets, the custody of the children and other issues, it is up to the family court to make those decisions. The family courts in this country work hard to make sure those decisions are fair and equitable, but it is still essential to have the right representation in your corner.
In the vast majority of divorce proceedings, there will be a settlement. Sometimes these arrangements are the result of an informal negotiation between the two divorce attorneys and the soon to be ex-spouses. In other cases, the agreement is the result of a structured proceeding like mediation or collaborative law.
In some cases, however, the two parties are unable to reach an amenable agreement. In those cases, the two sides may be too far apart in what they want, with one spouse demanding an unrealistically high settlement and the other unwilling to go along. These disagreements may revolve around the distribution of marital assets, including company pensions and retirement savings plans. In other cases, the two soon to be ex-spouses may not agree on who should raise the children, which spouse should have primary custody or even where the two parties will live.
In these situations, a family court (known in the law as a civil court) will hear the case. These courts, which also handle divorce proceedings, exist at the county and district levels. Divorces are turned over to the court where the divorce petition is filed initially. A single judge typically presides over the trial, but in some cases, one or both spouses may have the right to ask for a trial by jury.
Family Court Process
In a typical family court procedure, the attorneys for each spouse first present their evidence and arguments. This evidence may apply to things like child custody and visitation, the distribution of marital assets, financial and child support and so on.
The evidence in a typical family court proceeding may consist of:
- Testimony from each of the spouses
- Witness testimony
- Testimony by the children
- Expert witnesses
- Documents related to marital property and the distribution of assets
Court Process and Final Judgement
At the conclusion of the family court procedure, the judge (or jury) will issue the final ruling. In that decision, the judge or jury will grant the two parties the divorce and enter a judgment that finalizes the divorce and resolves all of the related issues.
That final court judgment will include some issues related to the divorce, including:
- The division of marital assets
- The resolution of any outstanding financial matters
- The custody and living arrangements of the minor children
- Orders for child support and spousal maintenance
Upon the judgment of the family court, one or both spouses have the right to appeal to a higher court, known as an appellate (appeals) court, which can either overturn or affirm the original ruling.
When a marriage comes to an end, the hope is that both spouses will be able to come to an equitable agreement. Even so, many divorces do not end in a fair deal and distribution of assets, but in the offices of a family court. Whether you expect your own divorce proceedings to end amicably or in family court, it is important to have a qualified advocate in your corner. Hiring a divorce attorney who has your best interests at heart could be your most important asset in any divorce proceeding, including those that ultimately end up in family court.