Divorce trials operate very similarly to other trials. They include a pre-trial discovery process, and at trial, both parties can bring forward witnesses and other pieces of evidence to prove their case.
It’s important to know what to expect when you head for a divorce trial. The proper preparation will allow you to move confidently through the trial and move forward with your life. A major element of preparing for trial is knowing what can be brought in as admissible evidence.
The legal term evidence is defined by the US court system as “information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case in favor of one side or the other.”
So what exactly can be brought forward as evidence in your divorce trial? While the laws slightly differ from state to state, here is a general guideline of what to expect.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process is the fact-finding process that takes place before the trial. The purpose of discovery is to allow both parties to “discover” information that the other party has. During this time, one party may ask the other for relevant evidence that may be brought up in trial. One party may also ask about whether witness testimony will be used at trial as well.
Discovery can include making written requests for documents that help a party prepare its case or understand the other party’s case. Discovery can also include “interrogatories,” which are written questions that the other party is required to answer. Additionally, one party can depose the other party or witnesses. In a deposition, a person is asked questions under oath, and their statements can later be used at trial. Depositions are typically recorded, and some are video recorded. In either case, a court reporter is present to make an official transcript of everything said by everyone present at the deposition.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side will allow you to tease out the strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s arguments as you prepare your own.
Evidence Pertaining to the Heart of Your Case
If your trial will be focused on a certain aspect such as child custody arrangements or child support, then you need to show evidence that directly reflects and supports your case. Here are some common topics that may arise in a divorce trial and what evidence can be used to support them.
Issues related to finance are often the main issues contested during divorce proceedings. The longer a marriage has lasted, the more complicated sorting out financials might be. One party may have been the primary breadwinner while the other stayed at home tending to the children and the house. This can make things tricky in terms of dividing finances, but different states have different laws on how assets and other financials are separated during a divorce proceeding. In New Jersey, marital property is divided “equitably,” which might or might not result in an even 50/50 split.
Having necessary documentation entered in as evidence will prove essential to clarify these arguments. When it comes to financials, common documentation you can enter in as evidence can include the following:
- Property appraisals
- Bank statements
- Other financial documents
Child Custody Arguments
If the focus of your case is on child custody, you can ask to have witness declarations from child care providers or even family members entered in as evidence. These declarations can help paint an image of the parenting capabilities a party can or cannot provide. A custody evaluator report can also be used to give further insight into a child’s welfare and living conditions when they are with one party.
Documentation including therapy sessions for testimony from a counselor can be used to strengthen arguments about someone’s character within the marriage as well. If domestic abuse is an issue discussed during the trial, then documentation including police reports, protective orders, and personal messages such as texts and emails that show threatening behavior from one party to another may be entered in as evidence. Witnesses who have seen the abuse firsthand can also submit written declarations as evidence as well.
Photos that relate to the core of your divorce trial arguments are admissible in court. Photos that show infidelity, abuse, or help paint a clearer picture of one party may aid in your case. When you present a photo as evidence, you must be able to show a relevant time frame of when the photo was taken as well as provide other evidence that gives the photo context that pertains to your case.
Proper Evidence Is Key
It can be difficult to discern between what can be entered as evidence in a divorce trial and what cannot. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side can help you figure out this process. To learn more about admissible evidence in a divorce trial, or if you have any questions, give us a call or send us a message. For help with a divorce mediation or trial in New Jersey, call the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.