In Divorce and Paternity Cases, If Mediation Fails, The Family Court Trial Judge Decides

By Orlando Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias

 Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011

If Mediation Fails, A Trial Follows

Empty courthroom

Despite the best efforts of mediators and attorneys to settle their divorce or paternity cases, divorce and paternity trials are sometimes necessary. Whether the differences between the litigants are the result of stubbornness or the disputes are, by nature, intractable, litigants have the right to proceed to a trial if they cannot agree on a mediated settlement. This is not a comprehensive review of the trial process, but these are some helpful insights for the family law client who is facing a divorce or paternity trial.

Only The Judge Makes The Final Judgment In a Divorce or Paternity Trial

Unlike other civil and criminal trials, which mostly feature juries, family court trials exclusively rely on judges to make the final judgments. When you are preparing for trial with your family law attorney, you should ask him or her about your judge’s tendencies and inclinations. Of course, having an attorney experienced in divorce trials is very helpful.

Much of statutory family law, particularly parenting issues, require subjective interpretation. And judges, like all of us, have personal beliefs and perspectives that they apply to their cases. A family lawyer that knows these will help you immensely in your trial preparation.

Keep Your Trial Testimony To The Essential Facts

Clients of family law attorneys in a divorce or paternity case should realize that judges strictly adhere to their schedules. Cluttering their judge's time with superfluous evidence or testimony increases the risk of a continuation of the trial, so stick to the relevant facts. Before the trial, I explain to my clients: (1)  the essential facts that we are trying to establish and (2) the testimony and evidence we will use towards those ends. Anything else just distracts from the goals that you are trying to achieve.

Clients often tell me “the judge needs to hear this!” regarding their spouses. Actually, in most instances, the judge does not need to hear any grievance you have against your spouse. In fact, evidence that does not tend to prove a material fact is legally irrelevant, therefore, inadmissible. Also, unlike a jury of your peers, the judge has “heard this all before” in other cases and does not want to needlessly lengthen the trial.

Just Answer With the Facts During the Trial's Cross Examination

If you are a in a family court trial, you can expect to be cross-examined by the opposing attorney. During the cross-examination, the opposing attorney will ask you questions that may seem hostile. Often, their questions are thinly veiled arguments. Your instincts will tell you to “fight back” by either arguing with the attorney or presenting extraneous information. You must avoid these temptations.

All of my clients are reminded to neither argue with the opposing attorney or present our case during their cross-examination part of the divorce trial. By doing either of these, you virtually guarantee that you will offer inconsistent testimony and even annoy the judge. Remember, the judge makes the ruling.

Before a divorce or paternity trial, I instruct my clients that my direct examination of them will allow them to present our case in a natural and compelling manner. In contrast, you should only provide the bare minimum amount of information to the opposing attorney during your cross-examination. Do not educate or engage in a debate with him or her.

Call Us For An Initial Consultation

If you need an experienced family lawyer to represent you in a divorce or paternity case, call me, attorney Eduardo J. Mejias, at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation. At the consultation I will listen to your explanation of the issues that you need resolved, give you a realistic assessment of what I can achieve for your and outline a plan of legal actions to achieve it. 

I will also quote you my attorney retention fees. This is almost always a fixed or flat amount that you will be informed about before you make any payment or sign any contract, not an hourly rate without a cap on the total bill. The attorney retention fee will be within the ranges below. Its actual amount depends on the level of complexity of the case.

Contested Divorce Up To Mediation*  $2,400 - $3,600

Paternity Cases Up to Mediation*        $2,100 - $3,000

Uncontested Divorce                            $1,200 - $1,800

*Most cases are settled at the mediation. If the case needs to go to trial, the range of attorney retention fees is $2,000 to $4,000. 

Court Costs (payable by client directly to the court)

Divorce Cases    $420

Paternity Cases   $300                      

For more information on attorney fees, including the ranges of fees applicable to each type of family law case go to Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.  

To find more information on Family Law topics, please go to the Articles section.