In both, Kansas and Missouri, a court room trial is a serious event with certain rules, expectations and procedures involved that gives guidance about how the trial is conducted. Whether your case is concerning a divorce, or other custody or family law matter, obviously, the decisions made from the trial are serious, and of potential life-long importance to you, as well as the other party.
Family Law cases are generally presided over by a judge. In both, Kansas and Missouri, family law trials or hearings are not conducted by jury trials. Both parties will generally appear with their attorneys and present evidence. In some trials, one or both parties will call witnesses on his or her behalf to give additional testimony or evidence. In many family law trials, however, the only witnesses who present information to the court are the two (2) parties.
It is the court’s role, through the judge to consider all available evidence and facts presented, weigh or determine the credibility of each witness, think through the arguments or positions presented by each side and then to ultimately enter or determine a divorce decree or other family law judgment that will be a final decision and order that both parties will be required to abide by. When the Court enters the final judgment, both parties have a legal obligation to comply with the terms of the court order and face potential punishment through contempt proceedings if they fail to follow or comply with the terms of the court order.
A divorce or other family law trial is often complicated and takes significant preparation and planning. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer will allow you to make all possible efforts to try to resolve the issues in dispute, either through settlement or mediation or in some other way. At some point, however, if the issues cannot be worked through, you will need to begin planning and preparing to participate in a trial to resolve your case in that fashion and to make sure your legal rights are protected.
What is the Trial Process?
It is important that you know that just because some issues are disputed or disagreed upon does not mean you have to have a trial about all of the issues. For example, if you and the other party agree on child custody and a parenting plan, but cannot agree to child support, you can enter into a settlement agreement as to the areas where you do agree and present only the issue of child support to the court for determination.
Who Gets to Present their Evidence First a Trial?
The spouse or party who filed the case generally gets to go first. In a divorce situation, this will be the Petitioner, however, in a modification case, it is possible for the Respondent (responding party in the divorce action) to be the party who filed the request to modify the previous judgment.
The party who goes first places their evidence on the record and calls their witnesses. Again, it is important that you are well-prepared to testify and know the specific content of what you expect to say that is both, relevant and appropriate for the court’s consideration. Following your presentation of witnesses and evidence, the other party goes second.
When you have exhibits or tangible documents you want the court to review and consider, those are offered into evidence. The other party has an opportunity to agree or object to the document going into evidence. If the document is admitted into evidence, the court will review it and consider it as part of the court’s determination. The exhibits will get labeled with either letters or numbers based on the court’s direction and the clerk will generally initial/approve them prior to them being presented into evidence.
What is the Conclusion of a Family Law Trial?
In some situations, the Court requests that both attorneys provide a summary of the evidence or a closing argument, but often, when the last witness is done testifying and all of the evidence has been admitted, the court simply thanks both parties for their presentation and indicates when a decision will be made. It is rare that the court will make the decision following trial. Typically, the court will give an estimate as to an expected time frame when the court expects to provide both sides with a judgment or decision. Often, in family law cases, the judge gives a memo or letter with a summary or his or her decision and asks one of the lawyers to prepare the final judgment document.
Will you Have Expert Witness Testimony in Your Divorce or Family Law Case?
In some cases, expert witness testimony is very important. When your case involves complex arguments or issues such as complex assets, business valuation or other similar things, often, expert witness testimony is very important to the judge coming to a fair and accurate determination/decision.
Additionally, if your children have unique needs that may need to be considered in developing a parenting plan in their best interests such as a child with special needs, it may be necessary to enlist an expert witness to help the court understand the unique needs of your child. Generally, expert witness testimony needs to be prepared significantly in advance of trial because of the complex issues that such an expert needs to be advised of or understand.
How Will You Successfully Navigate your Divorce or Other Family Law Trial?
If you are expecting to go through a family law trial, do not try to go through the process without an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney. You need someone who has the knowledge, experience and skill to help you comply with the legally-complicated issues that have to be completed in order to have a successful family law trial. It is also helpful to have a lawyer who is familiar with the judge for your case so that he or she can advise you as to what this specific judge expects in having a trial.
If you expect to be facing a divorce trial or other family law trial, call us at Pingel Family Law and consult with our attorneys to decide if our firm is the right one to partner with you through this stressful process. Call us today at (816) 208-8130.