Trials in divorce matters are kind of like the Loch Ness monster – lots of people of heard of it, but few have actually seen it. The system is currently set up such that there are many vehicles to get people to a settlement. Moreover, most cases should be settled. In fact, as I have blogged in the past, the cases that often get tried are ones where one, if not both parties, are totally unreasonable and unrealistic. As noted in prior blogs,there are, however, bona fide cases that cannot be settled and must be tried.
Many judges have a pre-trial Order or letter citing requirements of things that must be done before trial. One of the things often on the list is that counsel are supposed to confer to to see if the can reach any stipulations as to facts, and sometimes legal issues. Court’s have noted that "stipulations serve as a tool that enables parties to avoid the expense, trouble, and delay of adducing proofs on facts that, absent a stipulation, are contestable." Though I have one colleague that refuses to enter in to stipulations because he feels that it throws off the flow or leaves holes in his presentation, generally, stipulations are a good thing because it cuts down on what is already limited trial time.
Courts often also require parties to confer about joint exhibits for the same reason. Once the parties agree, the exhibits are marked and should go into evidence without the need for authentication of other testimony. Examples of things that are commonly joint exhibits are tax returns, bank records, prior court orders and transcripts, credit card records, and the like.
The question then is, does a trial court have to accept the stipulation, and if they don’t, what is supposed to happen.