Trials in Minnesota divorce cases are very rare. In practice, probably 99% of cases settle either prior to any court involvement or during court. This is done by the parties agreeing to the issues, generally with the help of a neutral third party (a mediator) or just the parties’ attorneys negotiating a settlement that both parties are comfortable with. If a case goes to trial, generally no one is completely satisfied with the results.

Trial Cases

However, there are some cases that just need to be tried. It may be that one party is completely unreasonable and will not come to the table to negotiate a settlement, or it may be that one party just needs their day in court for closure and to feel as though they have really been heard.

Whatever the reason for the trial, in divorce cases they are always “bench trials”, meaning that the judge decides all issues and there is not a jury present. Both sides are able to present witnesses and submit materials into evidence for the court to consider. Then, each side tells its story through testimony. Usually the court will ask the attorneys for written submissions at the end. The court has up to 90 days to issue an order resolving the matters discussed in trial; it is uncommon that you would walk out of your divorce trial and know exactly what the court is going to rule on all issues on that day.

Attorneys at Trial

If you have a case that is going to trial, it is a very good idea to retain an attorney to represent you. When you represent yourself, you are held to the same standard you would be if you were an attorney yourself. You are expected to know the rules of procedure, how to examine witnesses, how to present evidence to the court, and what objections are proper. The court does not give much leeway to individuals representing themselves in a trial, and you can get yourself into trouble when you don’t know what you are doing. The cost of retaining an attorney upfront is probably much less than the cost of trying to fix problems that may occur if you try to handle a trial unrepresented.