The perception that people get from watching lawyer shows on TV is that one day the client is meeting with the attorney, and the next day they are in Court. Reality is nothing like this. It usually takes months before one gets in front of the Judge and there is a lot of work that needs to be done before then.
Preparing for trial starts the day a new case is taken on by the lawyer. It must be assumed that each case is going to trial even though most cases settle. The worst thing to do is think that the case will settle, and then show up for trial unprepared.
Trial preparation does not start the day, or even week before trial. There are deadlines and rules that must be complied with if the attorney wants to get everything in to evidence at the time of trial. All witnesses and physical evidence (documents, etc.) must be disclosed to the other side long before trial. Also, each party has the right to ask for specific things if they want. This is called the “discovery” phase of litigation. There are essentially four types of written discovery each side can do:
- Uniform Interrogatories – This is a specific set of questions to the other side that consist of 26 pre-determined questions (e.g. Name, address, date of birth, Have you ever been convicted of a crime?, etc.)
- Non-uniform Interrogatories – These are questions that are drafted for the specific facts of the case (e.g. What is your proposal for visitation? What did you do with the bonus received in February? Who do you propose provide daycare for the child(ren)?)
- Request for Production of Documents – These are also unique requests to the other side to request specific documents. (e.g. Produce copies of your bank statements for the past one year; Produce copies of receipts for all monies paid for support of the children since your separation; Produce copies of all life insurance policies and the most recent statement for each; etc.)
- Request for Admissions – These are specific yes or no questions to the other party to get them to admit certain questions to avoid surprises at trial (Admit that Mother has been the primary care parent for the child; Admit that you have not provided any financial support for the children since your separation; Admit that the minor child has special needs; etc.)
If you are filing for divorce, or contemplating or involved in other family law matters, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine what disclosure is required and which discovery requests are appropriate. Please contact the law offices of Trullinger & Wenk to learn more about family law litigation procedures.