The Divorce Trial

I am an attorney that practices law in Middle Tennessee. www.bestclarksvillelawyer.com.  I start every blog on divorce with this disclaimer: Nothing in this blog constitutes establishing an attorney-client relationship.  Also, this blog is general advice and commentary and should not be construed as a substitute for either the need for getting specific advice from a lawyer or from hiring a lawyer.  In Tennessee, divorces are complex and require the hiring of a lawyer.

The culmination of a contested divorce is the trial itself.  Many times the attorney and the client have worked for months and months to get ready for the trial.  Discovery has been conducted.  The parties have usually exchanged interrogatories and done depositions.  Mediation has failed. Motions have long since angered both parties.

The trial itself is both the fulfillment and the most anti-climatic moment for most of my clients.

The client for the most part is expecting the trial to be a cathartic moment when all the hurts, shattered dreams, and wrongs will be righted and judged.  Unfortunately, at least in Middle Tennessee, this is not what happens at the trial.

The Divorce Trial Judge performs primarily and economic function.  That function is to divide the the marital property that the couple has acquired throughout the time that the couple has been married.  Also, the judge must determine, through the creation of a permanent parenting plan, how to create a visitation plan, with child support, that is in the best interest of the children. Finally, in a contested divorce, the Judge must determine the relative fault of the parties.  Generally, fault seems to be more of an after-thought, than the primary purpose of the divorce trial.

These two main functions, economic division and child division, are fairly mundane decisions.  For the parties, generally, the economics are the least of their worries.  Granted this might not be the case for those that are financially well off, but for most parties to a divorce, they can live with whatever the judge determines.

The issues with the children are generally more explosive, but at the same time, the real question is less about who done who wrong, than it is about what is good for the kids.  So, who slept with whom is not as relevant as who gets the kids to the bus on time.  I once heard a judge say, “she may be a slut, but she takes good care of the kids.”  Of course, this same mother ended up getting custody.

So, for the clients who want to finger point, it is sometimes hard to hear the advice of their lawyer while prepping for trial.  I generally prep my clients by telling them that we won’t spend a lot of time talking about fault.  Unless it is relevant to property division, say alimony and attorney fees, or the kids are being adversely effected by the adultery or inappropriate marital conduct, we are not going to do anything more than prove that the parties need to be divorced.  The rest of the time, the client will have to testify to property division and what is in the best interest of the children.

That’s a bummer when you want to talk about how you been done wrong, but it is the best way to get what you want out of the judge.  I find the best revenge for all those wrongs is taking money and getting the best visitation plan possible.

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