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When Divorce Cases Go to Trial in Pennsylvania

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Sometimes, walking away from a union is the only viable option, and though it’s a decision that only the bravest of us can make, it’s anything but simple.

A marriage is a legal, financial, and emotional union. By the time most people consider ending things, joint property, lovely dogs, and even lovelier kids are often involved.

These complexities mean that without proper legal representation, divorce trials in Pennsylvania can drag on for months and carry hefty legal bills that will dent your pocket for months to come. This is even before we mention the mental toll that comes with the divorce process.

That’s why our lawyers here at Petrelli Previtera, LLC do everything to facilitate meaningful negotiation and help our clients settle without going to trial whenever possible.

What is a Divorce Trial

A divorce trial is what happens when two separating spouses can’t come to a mutual agreement on some or all of the issues that define their separation. This is referred to as a contested divorce.

In such an instance, the divorce has to go to trial, where the two parties present evidence and give testimony before a judge, who will then decide on these issues on their behalf.

Some of the issues that lead to trial in Pennsylvania are failure to agree on:

  • Visitation agreements
  • Asset division
  • Custodial agreements
  • Attorneys fees

If you and your soon-to-be ex-partner can’t decide on the above issues, even with the help of a lawyer, there is a high chance you’ll be going to trial.

The Best Thing about Divorce Trial in Pennsylvania

The best thing about a divorce trial is that it can be avoided. With trained attorneys like Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we have decades of experience facilitating out-of-court agreements from even the most complex of divorce proceedings in PA.

Our trained lawyers will help establish common ground, explain the legal processes and possible outcomes, and facilitate collaboration with the other side.

The second-best thing about divorce trials is that it’s less dreadful than many people imagine. With award-winning lawyers like Petrelli Previtera, LLC, you can go into trial confident of the best possible legal strategy and a support system that prioritizes your mental and emotional well-being.

Our lawyers will help prepare you for trial, craft a solid strategy, and fight for a ruling that is in your best interest.

To start immediately, contact us at (303) 416-7086, and our teams will immediately begin securing your future. We’re always available to take your call and schedule your consultation.

What’s the Purpose of a Divorce Trial in Pennsylvania

Divorce trials and most trials in general exist to decide on a matter of fact. In such instances, there are two different parties with different views, and a trial seeks to find which one is factual, at least in law.

This is where things become complicated because what is “fact” relies heavily on the quality of legal representation that argues your case, not exactly what transpired in your marriage.

What to Expect Before Divorce Proceedings in Pennsylvania

Unless you’re lucky enough to end up with a judge called Judy or a lawyer called Saul, your PA divorce trial will bear little similarity to what’s portrayed in televised legal and courtroom drama.

Before you and your ex-partner go to trial, you’ll go through a multi-step process in preparation for trial. This will include:

1.  Discovery

Discovery is a process where both parties share information about witnesses and the evidence they plan to present before trial.

Discovery in PA exists to ensure that all parties know beforehand the evidence that the other party will present and prevent “gotchas” or trial by ambush.

Having a trained lawyer go through discovery is essential as they can spot evidence even in apparent things that a non-legal eye would never think is evidence.

Something as small as an abusive text message or proof of drunk driving can be pivotal in a custody case, and a lawyer will help you bring to light crucial evidence and present it during discovery.

Some types of discovery include:

  • Subpoenaing: Requiring the other side to present books, records, data, and information for evidence
  • Documentation: Having the other side submit evidence for physical examination
  • Interrogatories: This is a list of written questions presented to the other party
  • Deposition

2.  Pre-trial Depositions

A deposition is a type of discovery aimed at unearthing facts and information about a particular case before you head to trial.

Deposition can be a written transcript, video, or both that happens out of court to discover facts about the case.

These facts may include information about hidden assets, liabilities, income, and other financial issues of interest in the trial.

After your oral or written submission, you and your witnesses may be cross-examined by the opposing counsel called the deposing attorney to discredit your evidence or testimony.

It’s crucial to note that deposition happens under oath, which means everything you say must be consistent during the trial.

That’s why it’s essential to have a lawyer on your side to guide you in answering these questions, raising objections then and later in the trial, and, most essentially, asking hard questions of your own.

3.  Setting/Status Conference

A status conference is held before the trial to ensure that the trial proceeds efficiently and prevent any unnecessary circumstances that may prolong the trial.

During the status conference, the judge sets the dates and timelines of the trial, a schedule of how long the trial might take, and ensures that both parties are well prepared for the trial.

Unlike the deposition, a judge will be present, and even then, there will still be room for negotiations and out-of-court settlement.

4.  Trial Preparations

Our attorneys will then prepare you for the trial. This includes telling you everything from the complex legalities to the fundamentals, such as what to say and what to wear.

We will help you prepare both mentally and emotionally for the dynamics of a divorce trial, tell you what the other side’s defense might look like, some of the questions they will ask, and how to answer them.

The Divorce Trial Itself: What Happens in PA Divorce Court

After all mediation fails, you will then proceed to trial. A trial is made up of hearings or days in court where a judge will hear your case and come up with a ruling. Unlike other trials, a jury will not be necessary for your divorce trial, only a judge.


The trial will include:

1.  Preliminary Matters

Before the divorce trial starts, the judge rules on preliminary matters, which sets up the groundwork and the rules that guide the proceedings.

2.  Opening Statements

The opening statements are made by the lawyer of the plaintiff and then by the lawyer of the defendant. Opening statements primarily establish what the divorce trial seeks to solve or achieve. Trials are meant to decide on a matter of fact, and this is the part where both attorneys establish what they believe is fact.

3. Petitioners Presentation of Evidence

The petitioner refers to the party that presents a motion before the court. In a divorce trial in Pennsylvania, the petitioner goes first to present evidence. During this time, the lawyer may call witnesses to the stand to give testimony.

The petitioner’s lawyer will go ahead to examine their witness. Examination involves asking a witness questions that help show what is factual. Examination by your legal team is called direct examination. The other side’s lawyer also gets to examine the witness to find inconsistency; this is called cross-examination.

4. Respondents’ Presentation of Evidence

The respondent refers to the party against whom the divorce trial is moved. Like the petitioner, the respondent will get the opportunity to give their side of the story.

The respondent’s lawyer will present evidence and call witnesses to the stand to give testimony. They will also go ahead and directly examine their witnesses to emphasize specific issues of fact they want to highlight.

The petitioner’s lawyer equally gets an opportunity to cross-examine the respondent’s witnesses and find inconsistencies in their story.  

5. Closing Statement

After the back and forth of presenting evidence, objections, and examinations, a closing statement helps to tie everything together and summarize the case. The petitioner’s lawyer will get to go first, and then the respondent’s lawyer will follow suit.

6. Conclusory Matters

The judge then makes conclusory remarks before making their ruling. The judge can decide to make this ruling while on the bench, as often in televised drama. However, the judge will most likely make their ruling under advisement.

This means that other than making a ruling on the spot, the judge will take their time to think things over before coming to a decision. The verdict will then be written with explanations of why the judge made the ruling.

7. Appeal (if Appropriate)

If you’re not satisfied with the ruling that the judge made in your divorce trial, you can proceed to appeal this decision in the  PA Court of Appeal.

Appeal means taking a ruling to a higher court to ascertain whether the judge in the lower court considered all factors when making their ruling.

8. Decree of Divorce

Once all the matters in your divorce are eventually settled, the court issues a document that will now officially terminate your marriage.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Divorce Trial in Pennsylvania

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about divorce in Pennsylvania:

How Long Does the Divorce Trial Take?

Each divorce trial is different, and some trials are longer than others. Depending on the nuances of your divorce, the trial can take anything from a few weeks to several months, even years.

Can one Self Represent in A Trial?

Yes. Self-representation is allowed under Pennsylvania law but not advised. Divorce trials are incredibly complex processes. For self-representation, you’ll have to present all court documents, file them, be present in all proceedings, cross-examine witnesses, and create a legal strategy all by yourself. You will also be responsible for the accounting and finance that usually comes during asset division. It’s much easier said than done.

Must one Be Present During All Hearings?

Yes. In Pennsylvania, both the parties and their legal counsel should be present during legal hearings unless one obtains an order from the assigned judge that allows them to miss trial. However, this is subject to the judge’s discretion. Our lawyers can represent you when your presence is not necessary. Regardless, it’s crucial and a good sign to the judge if you are present during the hearings.

Will I be Cross-Examined?

Cross-examination is not always guaranteed during a divorce trial in PA. However, you are likely to get cross-examined during deposition. Your witnesses might get to be cross-examined by the other side’s lawyers during trial.

Where Petrelli Previtera, LLC Comes In

Divorce often means that your family is changing. It comes with its fair share of unanswered questions, uncertainties, and legal dilemmas that may keep you awake at night.

Our lawyers here at Petrelli Previtera, LLC have many years of experience walking on Pennsylvania legal corridors. Give us a call, and we will ensure that quality legal representation is one less thing to worry about.

If you need more information or want to consult with one of our attorneys, please get in touch with the attorneys of Petrelli Previtera, LLC, at 866-465-5395.

Client Testimonials

Here's what our clients have to say about working with us. Please note, results may vary based on individual circumstances.

Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

Jennifer A.

My experience was very good. Everyone was professional and attentive to my needs, keeping me updated every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better result, highly recommended.

David R.

My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

Caitlin B.

Serving Clients at the Following Locations

Philadelphia1845 Walnut Street 19th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19103(215) 523-6900view details
Montgomery County516 DeKalb Street Suite C Norristown, PA 19401(610) 924-2870view details
Doylestown123 N Broad Street, Doylestown, PA 18901(267) 938-4480view details
Abington1147 Easton Road, Abington PA 19001(610) 890-4833view details
West Chester203 W. Chestnut St., Suite 204
West Chester, PA. 19380
(610) 431-4012view details
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