We handle all varieties of divorce trials, plenary hearings, evidentiary hearings, motion hearings, and pre-trial and post-trial proceedings. This entails the preparation of witnesses, the collection, organization and marking of evidence, the strategic development of a trial theme, and the preparation and filing of the necessary protective motions. Our team is highly skilled and trained in trial preparation and trial delivery.
During a divorce trial, the court may be called upon to render rulings concerning the distribution of marital property, the allocation of marital debt, the apportionment of tax liabilities, child custody and parenting time, child support, health insurance, life insurance, and other insurance coverages, the disposition of retirement benefits, an award of alimony, maintenance or spousal support, and the award of attorney’s fees. In more sophisticated cases, the court may be asked to place a value on a family business, or on a professional practice (such as a spouse’s medical practice or law practice). The court will then be required to apportion the value of that professional practice between the spouses, or to make other adjustments or concessions between the parties as part of the distribution of assets.
In some cases, where fraud and deception have been proven, the court will be asked to rule that there was a dissipation of marital assets. The judge will then be encouraged to make appropriate financial adjustments so that the disadvantaged spouse has been made whole. In some cases, it will be necessary to seek sanctions against a party who conceals assets, obstructs justice, or frustrates the equitable division of the marital property. During the divorce trial, it is common for each of the parties and their witnesses to take the witness stand. On the stand, they will be examined by their lawyers, and cross-examined by the spouse’s lawyer. The judge may, in fact, ask several questions from the bench. As the testimony is given by each of the parties and their witnesses, the judge will be taking notes and forming preliminary judgments about each of the essential issues in the case. Important documents and other kinds of evidence may be introduced through the witnesses. Where these documents are objectionable or irrelevant, one of the attorneys may “object,” and the judge will be asked to either sustain the objection (precluding the evidence) or overrule the objection (allowing the evidence). Presenting evidence and overcoming objections can be very technical, and a party should never attempt to represent himself or herself in a trial, without the benefit of a trained trial attorney.
With the exception of domestic tort cases, most divorce trials are heard in front of a judge without a jury. During this process, the judge serves two roles: First the judge will be the arbiter of all legal rulings, deciding when to accept evidence or reject it. Secondly, the judge will serve as the finder or fact (in place of a jury). In this role, the judge will evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, the strength and weight of the evidence, and the relevance of the evidence to determine which side has presented a more compelling and persuasive case. Generally, each of the lawyers in a divorce trial will be given an opportunity to make an opening statement at the outset of the trial which outlines the evidence to be presented and summarizes the case. The lawyers will also be given an opportunity to make closing argument at the conclusion of the case, which evaluates all of the evidence presented by both sides and states each party’s position with respect to how the court should render a final ruling.
In some cases, a wife who took her husband’s surname during the marriage may request that the court restore her to her maiden name.
At the conclusion of the trial, the judge may take all of the evidence “under advisement,” and he or she may take some time to think about it. When the court renders its final decision, it will grant a divorce, as well a name change (if requested). It will decide the essential issues, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, attorney’s fees, and any other questions that were reserved for trial.
The court will enter a final judgment of divorce (or dissolution of marriage) at the conclusion of the trial. Like other judgments, this judgment can be appealed to a higher court, and it can be registered or recorded in another state if it becomes necessary to enforce any of its provisions in front of another judge.
If a party believes that the court has overlooked some set of facts or some legal precedent in rendering its judgment, it may file a post-trial motion seeking reconsideration and/or relief from the judgment. Each state has different criteria for filing such a motion, and the party who files the motion will be required to meet a certain burden of proof to sustain such a motion.
A party may also be permitted to file a motion or petition for contempt, sometimes referred to as an “enforcement motion.” Such a motion can be filed after a final judgment is issued when one of the parties fails to obey the terms of the final judgment and essentially violates the court’s orders. Great care should be exercised in choosing an attorney to represent you in a matrimonial trial. If your case is pending in a state which recognizes board certification for trial attorneys or family lawyers, you should retain a board certified attorney. While many attorneys belong to specialty organizations in family law, only board certification guarantees that they have met the necessary educational standards and proven the necessary trial experience to become certified as a specialist in the field.
Mark S. Guralnick has been board certified in family law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. In addition, in New Jersey, which is one of the nine states in which he is licensed, Mark S. Guralnick is certified in both matrimonial law and in civil trial law. If you are in need of a trial attorney for your divorce case, don’t wait. Contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick now for a no-fee consultation.