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Preparation for a Family Court Trial

Your divorce and/or custody has been set for trial. With so much at stake, being well-prepared can help you feel more confident and calm. Here are some useful steps that can help you to prepare your case effectively in family court.

When parents divorce in the state of Illinois, their divorce settlement must outline a plan for different issues regarding their children. This plan should include child support, custody and visitation. Some parents are able to utilize mediation or work together to determine where their children will live and how much time will be spent with each parent.

There are some cases in which parents are unable to resolve custody disputes without legal intervention. In that situation, it is best to get a family lawyer to advise parents to prepare themselves for a potential child custody evaluation. Here’s some ways to prepare for a family court trial.

Preparing For Trial

Attorneys will guide you through the preparation process and help you gather evidence. Your job is to provide everything your attorney asks for and be 100% honest so they can prepare for arguments the other party may be compiling. 

If you plan on representing yourself, most legal experts would recommend consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re ready for court. This is different from hiring a lawyer to represent you since they will provide you with advice during meetings.

You’ll need to present evidence to support your case, which includes exhibits and witnesses. It’s always important to review the Illinois Rules of Evidence, and remember that witnesses cannot testify to hearsay.

Examples of Evidence You Can Provide

  • Bills and medical reports 
  • Photos/Videos of you and your child
  • Phone logs and visits with your child
  • A calendar showing when you care for your child
  • Anything that proves you to be fit as a parent and meets evidence requirements

It’s important to be prepared and have the judge know your stance on what is best for your child. You can do this by providing a parenting plan and parenting time schedule to trial. Along with all documents, bring a copy for the court, one for the other parent and one for yourself.

Witnesses can be anyone with knowledge relevant to the case. Parents almost always testify as witnesses. A child is more likely to do an interview with the judge outside of the courtroom, since the probability of them testifying is low. Expert witnesses provide professional opinions and are appointed by the court or hired by a party. Examples of expert witnesses are child custody evaluators or psychologists. Lay witnesses do not offer expert opinions, but they testify about their personal knowledge of a situation. These witnesses include family members, friends, and teachers.

Trial Scheduling

Trials usually take place several months after the initial filing. If the case is not progressing 18 months after filing, the judge may decide to issue a ruling at that time. Trials typically tend to be a few hours and will often be done in one sitting. 

Longer trials may be broken up into sessions spread out over days, weeks or, in some complicated cases, months. Be aware that the court may delay your trial date due to requests for more time from the other parent.

Trial Procedures

The parent who requested parental responsibilities, also known as the petitioner, may give an opening statement to explain how they see the case. The other parent, also known as the respondent, can then follow. 

If you are represented by an attorney, they will speak on your behalf. The petitioner calls witnesses and presents exhibits first. Any number of witnesses can be called to testify, as long as they were on the list that was filed with the court and provided to the other parent. 

Following Procedures:

  • Next, the respondent calls their witnesses and presents their exhibits.
  • Later, each side can submit additional evidence (called rebuttal evidence) to disprove the other side’s claims.

Finally, both parties give closing arguments to summarize their points. Judges announce rulings immediately following closing arguments, but they can take several days or weeks to decide. The final judgment replaces temporary orders previously put in place. Your options for changing a final judgment include appealing to a higher court or applying for a modification.

Final Thoughts

Masters Law Group understands that preparation for a family court trial can be a stressful situation. Our firm makes sure they are with you every step of the way. We currently handle family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties and concentrate in the area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs and have a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to set up a consultation today.

5 Prenup Myths You Need to Know

A prenuptial agreement (commonly referred to as a premarital agreement) is a contract people enter into prior to marriage that establishes the essential property and financial rights of each spouse in the unfortunate event of a divorce. While the agreement can protect you down the line if you and your new spouse part ways, there are many misconceptions that should be addressed before rejecting the notion all together.

Wedding venue is booked, dress is fitted, rings are bought and the flowers are ordered. At this stage most couples assume “I Do” is all that’s left. However, many Americans are now adding another step to their wedding plans; a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is defined as, “an agreement between prospective spouses that is made in contemplation of marriage and that is effective on marriage” and failing to make a prenuptial agreement will result in the courts having power over your estate. So why the hesitation for so many others tying the knot?

Read on for five common myths and misconceptions about prenups and learn how an attorney can help you craft a prenuptial agreement that will provide peace of mind on your big day.

Myth #1: Prenups are only necessary if one spouse is wealthy.

Prenuptial agreements are extremely beneficial to those with ample assets, but they are also highly valuable for the “average-income” individuals, too. For example, if you married without a prenup in place, the courts may not be aware of personal debt, pets, the sentimental value of inheritance items or the fact you had cash set aside for your children. With a prenup, you can customize and define what will remains yours in the instance of a separation in the future.

Myth #2: My Spouse wants a prenup because he/she doesn’t trust me.

Arguably, the biggest reason for not getting a prenup is the misconception it comes down to trust. Or a lack of it. While this can be the case in some relationships, in far more cases these agreements have nothing to do with trust. Instead one, or both, parties want to be prepared for whatever comes their way. While almost all marriages start off with the best of intentions, around 50% of them end in divorce, regardless of the level of trust present on the day of the wedding. A prenuptial agreement will help ensure trust since both parties will need to reveal their assets, debts, and beliefs about how things should work financially in a marriage. In addition, should the marriage fail, this type of agreement really helps to streamline the divorce process for both parties.

Myth #3: Couples who truly love one another don’t need a prenup.

Worried that a prenuptial agreement will pit you and your future spouse against each other or be an omen for divorce? The opposite is actually true. In fact, 86% of mental health experts polled by relationship site YourTango said that prenups have “no predictable impact” on marriage. Completing a prenuptial agreement requires the ability to discuss financial matters and reach compromises; both skills that are a sign of a strong future marriage. So yes, creating a prenup can strengthen your relationship and prepare you for future financial discussions later down the road.

Myth #4: Prenups aren’t enforceable.

This is a myth that has been getting more and more popular in recent years. Although there are times when prenuptial agreements are not enforced in court, the majority of them are. Illinois, like many states, has adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). The UPAA is a set of guidelines that govern how courts decide whether a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. All prenuptial agreements must be in writing. Both spouses must also sign the agreement for it to be enforceable. In rare cases where prenups are not enforced, it is usually because one spouse was coerced or under duress when signing, or when proper legal procedures are requirements were not met when the agreement was created. If you have a well-written prenuptial agreement that is done properly by an experienced attorney, you have an excellent chance at the courts enforcing it every time.

Myth #5: You shouldn’t hire an attorney to get a prenup.

It’s not a good idea to enter into a prenuptial agreement solo. Every state has separate rules for prenuptial agreements. If you aren’t familiar with your state law, or if you’re not comfortable interpreting the rules, you should hire an attorney. A prenup attorney responsible for drafting a prenuptial agreement will outline a clearly defined assets protection strategy that can reduce the potential for financial disputes during the divorce process.

To Conclude

Couples considering marriage today are three times more likely to enter into a prenuptial agreement than spouses were ten years ago. No longer just a protection for the wealthy, prenuptial agreements are used by couples from all income brackets to decide how to divide their property if they divorce.

A well-crafted premarital agreement can address spouses’ concerns about financial issues or obligations during their marriage, and it can protect certain assets in the case of divorce. At Masters Law Group, we understand that establishing a prenuptial agreement enhances the strength of your relationship and provides the foundation for a strong marriage. If you live in Illinois and need to have your prenup written up, please contact us to go over all your options today.

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