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What Happens if Your Divorce Goes to Trial?

When you file for a divorce you will essentially make claims about your family situation and propose a settlement agreement. The vast majority of those couples will enter into several negotiations in regards to the proposed agreement before settling. 

Some, however, will have to go to court, and will have to show a judge why the version of the divorce settlement they are asking for is the superior one. Here’s what you need to know about what happens, what to expect, and how it can impact your divorce case.

What’s included in the divorce settlement? 

Every divorce must address the division of property and debts. Some divorces will also include a spousal support settlement.

If you have children then your divorce settlement must include provisions for child custody, child access (also known as visitation), and child support. 

If you and your ex could not come to an agreement on any of these five issues then the judge will review the facts and come to a decision about what to do. The judge may choose to use the terms of either spouse’s proposed settlement or may come up with a whole new set of orders based on the facts of the case.

One disadvantage of going to trial is that you lose control of the process. The judge doesn’t know you or your family. The judge only knows the facts laid before the court, and has only a short period of time to make a decision about those facts. In most cases, it is far more beneficial to settle your case if you can. 

How do judges make decisions about who is right?

The judge uses two standards.

The first is the “balance of probabilities” standard. This legal standard asks the judge to evaluate who is more likely to be right about the facts of the case: you, or your partner. The spouse that is more believable generally gets what they ask for…or something closer to it than the partner the judge does not believe.

On child support, child access, and child custody issues the judge uses the “best interests of the child” standard. The courts, to the best of their ability, will try to determine what will make the child happiest and healthiest and draw up their orders in response to that determination. 

What does the trial process look like?

The trial begins with opening statements. Each lawyer will help the judge understand what issues the court is being called upon to decide, as well as what evidence and legal precedent they have for the case. 

After that, each lawyer will have a chance to present the court with the appropriate evidence. Witnesses may or may not be called to the stand.

After that, each side makes a closing argument and the judge makes a decision. 

While it sounds straightforward, family law is not simple. You need a practiced litigator by your side. All of our family law lawyers have the sort of litigation experience that gets results for our clients. 

What happens after the divorce trial? 

The judge will issue orders, and those orders will become binding. Both you and your spouse will be obliged to follow those orders. If one of you does not comply they can be sanctioned by the court. Those sanctions can include fines, fees, the loss of driving privileges, and even jail time.

Divorce trials are serious. Make sure you’re ready for yours. Contact the team at Merchant Law to get started today.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.