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The Trial – The Final Showdown In Traditional Court Divorce

Over the last few weeks, we’ve traveled the road down a traditional court divorce case – from filing an application to attending conferences. At any point along this trajectory, an ex-couple can avert a trial by ironing out any remaining differences and setting their terms down in writing. Failing that, the case moves into the courtroom for the actual trial and its fate falls into the hands of a judge.

Nature Of A Family Court Trial

A family law case is heard by a judge, but no jury. Yet, the court trial is not a private affair. The proceedings are open to the public, and spectators are free to hear the facts – including personal details – that the disputing ex-couple may have yet to air out.

The case begins with opening statements. Each side provides a synopsis of the issues, makes it plain how they want the judge to decide and outlines the evidence they plan to use.

Each side then has the opportunity to:

  • Present evidence
  • Call on witnesses
  • Endure cross-examination by the other side
  • Re-examine the witnesses

After both sides have presented their case, each makes a closing statement – summarizing the evidence and reaffirming why they want to judge to decide in their favour.

The Decision

Some judges decide cases on the spot, right after closing statements. Others require only brief deliberation, in which case, everyone leaves for a short break before reconvening to hear the outcome. In more complex cases, the judge takes days, weeks or even months to provide a decision, and may, in the interim, provide temporary orders regarding the issues.

After the process is complete, the judge issues an order on the contested issues, often in the form of a written endorsement. If either party disagrees on the judge’s directions or fails to comply with them, they may find themselves back in court to seek a change or help to enforce an order – a topic that we’ll discuss in an upcoming post.

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