QUESTION 2: How does one prepare for trial?
The trial is a presentation of evidence through witnesses’ testimony, sometimes by testimony presented via deposition transcripts, either audio/visual or transcript, and the presentation of documents and other physical evidence as exhibits. A trial, if done properly, is a highly technical, arduous exercise, where good trial lawyers, who may have trust in the ability of the trial judge, still want a record of testimony and judge’s rulings preserved in the event an appeal is taken.
Live testimony is elicited from witnesses by their answering the questions asked of them by the lawyers for each of the parties. Many witnesses can be called to testify at trial beyond the parties. For instance, where there is a conflict about valuations, each of the parties may present experts to testify about their respective professional opinion about fair market value, if real estate, or fair value, if a business. If there is an issue concerning custody or removal of children from the Commonwealth, there likely has been a court investigator appointed by the court, otherwise known as a Guardian ad Litem. Either party may call the GAL as a witness, either to elicit the testimony or to cross examine.
As a litigant involved in your own divorce, you should know that these decisions about who to call as a witness and what documents should be offered as exhibits into evidence should be determined long before the start of the trial. The lawyers for the litigants should meet well in advance of the trial to identify with the client witnesses and exhibits to be introduced.
You should know that trial dates can be difficult to obtain. The days for an actual trial are sparse due to the abundance of contested cases in the probate court. Therefore, a well put together case utilizes witnesses who are well prepared in advance of trial. All witnesses, including you, should be carefully prepared by your lawyer prior to the trial date. For those witnesses who will be identifying exhibits at trial, those documents should be provided in advance to the witness. One good witness is better than ten mediocre witnesses.
If preparation is so key for trial, then who prepares the trial? I will talk about this in my next blog.