What To Expect when Going to Court?

This morning I was getting ready for a marathon couple of days.  I have hearing this morning in the Spartanburg County Family Court and this afternoon I head over to Laurens County Family Court for a quick hearing.  Then, first thing tomorrow it is back to the Greenville County Family Court for a child support hearing.  As I was putting my tie on, I realized that this was what I did every day and I knew what was coming, but it hit me that my clients probably had a good deal of anxiety about what to expect.

When I work with a client, I always have at least one appointment prior to the hearing to prepare the client for the hearing.  We talk about who are judge is going to be and what kinds of questions to expect from them.  I also go through who is in the court room and what to expect from the experience.

So, what can you expect in your divorce hearing?  The answer depends on the type of case you have at the family court as well as whether your case is contested or if you and the opposing party (normally your spouse or former spouse) have reached an agreement on all or just some of the issues.

When your case is called you will go into the courtroom and sit at one of the tables in front of the judge.  Your spouse will sit at the other table.

If your case is a divorce case the judge will then ask both parties if there is anything the court could do to help reconcile the marriage and help get the parties back together again such as marriage counseling or time spent with a minister or priest.  Assuming the answer is no to that question, the case will begin.

The plaintiff (the person who filed for divorce) will then be called as a witness to lay the groundwork for the case and any other witnesses required will be called at this time as well.  After the plaintiff’s side questions witnesses, the defendant’s side will have an opportunity for cross-examination.  When all of the plaintiff’s witnesses have been called, the defendant will then have an opportunity to present his/her side of the case.

In an uncontested case, there are usually 2 witnesses – the plaintiff and the corroborating witness to confirm the parties have lived separate and apart for more than one year.  If the case is contested there may be many witnesses including friends, experts, accountants, and so forth to build up the case for each party.

Depending on the county, an uncontested matter may take between 5 and 15 minutes where a contested case could last for days.

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