How to File a Trial Brief for Divorce

By Anna Green
A divorce decree document with a pen.
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Not all divorce cases go to trial. If you are able to mediate your divorce case or otherwise resolve issues without presenting them to a judge, you can enter into a separation agreement and avoid the need to go to court. If you do go to trial, however, you'll probably be required to submit a trial brief ahead of time. This is a document that outlines the arguments you plan to make to the judge so he rules in your favor.

Use Appropriate Formatting

While some states have forms that you can use to create your divorce trial brief, other jurisdictions may require you to prepare an original document. Although each state has different formatting requirements, you would typically begin with a caption at the top of the document that includes your name, your spouse’s name, name of the court hearing the case and your docket or case number. You can copy this information from previous pleadings you filed, such as your divorce complaint or petition. You will also need to label your document as a trial brief. In most states, you must also number each page. Ask the court clerk or courthouse staff where you can find specific formatting requirements for your state. The clerk and staff can't give you legal advice, but they can point you in the right direction.

Outline Your Arguments

In most states, your trial brief should outline, in detail, the main points you plan to make during the trial. This typically begins with a summary of the basic facts of your case. You can also use your brief to rebut any statements or arguments that your spouse has made up to this point. You and your spouse will be filing your briefs at the same time so you won't have access to your spouse's arguments at the time you write yours. But, you can address issues that came up during pretrial motions, particularly if you feel that he's going to raise the same issues again at trial. You can also provide citations to state laws or case law that back up your arguments, although this may require some extensive research in a law library or the assistance of a professional. For example, if you and your spouse are at odds about how to divide property, you can provide references to specific laws that discuss your state’s standards for handling assets in a divorce. You can cite other cases in your state where the judge ruled the way you want your judge to rule now.

Present Specific Evidence

Your state may require that you outline and provide specific evidence to back up your claims and arguments. For example, if you and your spouse disagree on a custody arrangement, you may have to submit evidence of your spouse’s unfitness as a parent. This might include records from therapists, schools or social service agencies. Explain the documents' relevance in the body of your brief and reference it by labeling them as exhibits.

Serve the Brief

The court will give you a specific deadline by which you must file your brief. This allows both your spouse and the judge time to review your document prior to the trial. Although the rules for serving a brief differ between courts, you will generally have the option of sending it to your spouse and the court by mail or hand delivery. In many states, you must include a certificate of service or signed statement attesting you provided the other parties with a copy of your brief and stating how you delivered it to them.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.