You’re getting divorced, and it’s not as amicable as you expected—or would have liked. Welcome to the club of contested divorces.
It’s a long path if you and your soon-to-be-ex can’t agree on any issues. And, if you’re involved in a hotly contested divorce, then you might be heading for trial.
Trial, the last stop on the divorce train.
A divorce trial is similar to any other legal trial, except odds are there will be no jury to decide who gets what and how much. It will be your divorce judge, one man or woman tasked with setting your future and determining how often you can see your children.
Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
If you find yourself facing a trial, you had better be prepared. If you have an attorney, great. A trial will only cost you thousands. However, if you don’t have an attorney, you had better be organized and know the law and procedure in order to make your case and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
The majority of the evidence used during a divorce trial has to do with documents, such as credit card statements, bank statements, proof of income—things like that. If the divorce is a he said/she said battle, then it will likely come down to credibility. The judge will favor the party who he/she feels is more credible and likely to be telling the real story.
How do you win the credibility battle? By using other types of evidence.
Your word rarely is good enough. What you say should be backed up by objective evidence that a judge can use to make an informed decision. With these types of proof, it’s imperative that you confirm what the laws are in your state, because they do differ.
This is a great way to expose those who portray themselves in court to be someone they are not. What do I mean? Let’s say your spouse berates, threatens, and harasses you outside of court, but whenever there is a hearing, turns into a "white knight" before the judge. Emails and texts are great evidence to use if you can obtain them.
Nothing beats a recording of your spouse going nuts. Judges love that stuff because it instantly destroys credibility. The problem is obtaining the recording. The first thing you need to do is verify what the law on recording conversations is in your state. For example, in New Jersey, you only need the consent of one party to the conversation to record it. So, if you are part of the conversation, you’re good to go.
Texts are great to use as evidence if you have them. But use caution: they can also be manipulated and falsified. Text messages have to be authenticated before they can be used as evidence. That means you have to prove who sent the text and who received it. Be careful. If you use one part of a text, the other party can use the other part of the chain; and if there is anything damaging from you, it has the potential to damage your case as well.
Remember, a divorce judge is interested in assessing objective evidence to make a decision. The more you have, the better off you will be. Use what you have, but don’t risk getting hurt in trying to obtain evidence you think will help you. It’s not worth a domestic violence incident.
Objective evidence will always be more valuable than subjective evidence, which is your typical he said/she said scenario. Your credibility, plus your evidence, equals the best possible case. The rest falls within the discretion of the judge.
Written by Jason Levoy
Jason Levoy, aka The Divorce Resource Guy, is a divorce attorney and founder of Divorce U, a premier program designed to coach those who can’t afford an attorney on how to represent themselves with confidence and integrity. Learn more about Jason and Divorce U at JasonLevoy.com.