1. Have a clear plan of what your goals are in your divorce or custody case.
The first step to being prepared for trial is to have a clear list of what you want the judge to decide. It helps to start at the end so to speak. By diagnosing exactly what you want the judge to say when she issues her ruling you will know what you need to get to those goals. So the first thing you should do for your divorce attorney is create a full list of everything you want the judge to give you. Your family lawyer should give you guidance on what this should include. It might look something like this:
A. Joint custody of the children
B. To be awarded 75% of the parenting time
C. $1,200 a month in spousal support
D. To sell the house and split the proceeds
Most people will have a longer list than this, but this should be enough to give you a good idea of my point.
2. For each on of the items on your list, write out the reasons why you want it, or why you think you’re entitled to it.
For example, you may put under “$1,200 a month in spousal support”, because you can’t meet your financial obligations with it.
3. Take this list and do some legal research (or talk to your divorce lawyer) about exactly what you need to prove in order to get what you want.
For instance, by doing research, you would discover that you cannot, in Oregon, have joint legal custody unless both parties agree. If you know the other party won’t agree you can adjust your goal since you know that isn’t a possible outcome.
As another example, for the parenting time issue, you would discover a list of factors that judges are supposed to use in determining a parenting plan.
4. Take the legal research you did, and come up with specific facts that support your case.
Again, using the parenting time example, your legal research would suggest you need to convince the judge that you are the primary caregiver of the children as one of the most important factors. In order to convince a judge to give you your proposed plan, you would want to be ready to present specific pieces of evidence as to why you are the primary caregiver.
Create a list of the evidence you want the judge to hear. For this parenting time example, here is a sample set of some evidence you might look for:
A. Our daycare provider can testify I am always the parent picking up and dropping off, and that I am the one they call when something comes up.
B. My child’s medical chart notes show that I am almost always the parent who takes them to their appointments.
C. The school registration forms show I am the one who always signs for the children’s activities.
The list should be quite long.
5. Organize facts into admissible evidence when preparing for trial.
Finally, you will want to organize each of these facts into an admissible piece of evidence, such as testimony, or a document you can present. This is the real mine field, as the term “admissible evidence” is a whirlwind of confusion even for many practiced attorneys.
One thing you don’t want to overlook is the gathering of such evidence. Sometimes it can take a long time to put together all the documents you need to put forth a good presentation to the judge. So be sure to start gathering documents early, and demand they be produced if the other person has them. This is one thing that can really help your family law attorney to be prepared for your divorce or custody case before the trial date.