Divorce trials are much like other trials. They involve witnesses, testimony, evidence and arguments. Evidence is gathered and exchanged during the process of discovery. Discovery is a fact-finding process that requires each party to a divorce exchange information and/or documents requested by the other party. This generally takes place leading up to a trial and helps each side prepare their argument.
Discovery can include:
- bank statements and other financial documents,
- property appraisals,
- parenting or custody evaluator reports,
- medical records and any prior divorce records that are admissible as evidence and relevant to the issues at hand.
They must be “discoverable”, meaning they are admissible as evidence.
Certain documents, like attorney-client communications or protected healthcare information, may not be discoverable and cannot be used as evidence in a trial.
Discovery usually includes a standard set of financial documents and anything that supports yours or the other side’s argument. Trials often focus on the financial aspects of divorce however couples can also head to trial over custody arrangements or visitation schedules.
These issues will require evidence that addresses the specific conflict. For example, if the divorce trial was focused on a custody arrangement, you may have therapy or counseling records, a parenting evaluator report and declarations from witnesses such as childcare providers or close family members. These pieces of evidence would be able to paint a picture of the parenting abilities of a spouse through demonstrating their history as a parent, their mental health as well as their general character and trustworthiness.
If there were an issue of domestic violence involved in this conflict, you may also find police reports, protective orders, records of abusive text messaging or emails, and/or declarations from witnesses who’ve witnessed the violence in the home.
A divorce trial only comes after litigation options are exhausted, often taking months. This means that while both parties already know the general circumstances of the case, an agreement still has not been reached. You could also be heading to trial after unsuccessful mediation.
Speak to a skilled family law trial attorney if you feel your case may be heading to trial. California laws on what can and cannot be used evidence can be complex and it is very important you are aware of what might be held against you in court. Understanding the evidence that will need to be exchanged prior to trial can also help you envision what a likely outcome might look like and it will also inform you of what information you need to successfully present your case in court.
Are you in the Los Angeles area and have questions about the use of evidence in your divorce trial? Certified Family Law Specialist Mark H. Karney has experience handling complex divorce trials in Los Angeles County. Serving Los Angeles and surrounding areas, California family law attorney Mark H. Karney offers efficient and tenacious legal counsel. Call our office at 310-622-9434; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us through our online form today to schedule a free consultation.