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What can I expect in divorce court?

Though ideally every divorce would be settled civilly, outside of a courtroom, it is not realistic. You might be involved in a situation in which going to court is absolutely necessary. Examples include separations that involve cases of abuse or heated disputes over custody or personal property. Going to court can be a stressful process, but it does not have to be as intimidating as it may seem. Before you have your day in court, familiarize yourself with the process and learn what you can expect from divorce court.

Despite what you might believe, a real-life court case is very much like what you might have seen on television. Watching a few episodes of Judge Judy before your case might help more than you would think—as well as relieve some of your stress thanks to the entertainment.

If you started this action, you will be the petitioner or “plaintiff.” Your attorney will present your case to the judge and courtroom first. You might be called to the witness stand, where you will be sworn in and questioned about your situation. Once your lawyer has finished their questions, your spouse's lawyer might choose to ask you a few questions. In most divorce cases, there are few or no witnesses. If there is one, it will probably be your child’s guardian ad litem.

After your case has been presented, things will be turned over to your spouse's attorney, who will then follow the same format. When both sides have rested, each attorney might be permitted to make a closing statement. The jury then makes a decision, or the judge if a jury is not present.

If you have additional questions about divorce court, speaking to an experienced attorney might be beneficial.

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