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.
 


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I have a matter now that will likely go to trial in the early part of the new year.  It appears inevitable. 

Sometimes there are just those cases where a client is put in the impossible position of having to make a "Hobson’s choice" accepting a patently unfair or otherwise unpalatable settlement or taking their chances

Trials are often won or lost based upon credibility determinations.  More often than not, cases are replete with he said/she said situations, or real differences of opinion as to almost every issue.  In an interesting unreported Appellate Decision released on July 15, 2009, credibility was critical.  As the author of this post was the successful

Mark Ashton, a partner in our Exton, Pennsylvania office, and the editor of the firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law blog, wrote an excellent post on that blog entitled, "Sizing Up the Litigation:  An Examination of Cost vs. Benefit.  To read the post, click here.

The point of the post is that a litigant should choose their battles wisely, recognizing the

Mark Ashton, a partner in our Exton, Pennsylvania office, and the editor of the firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law blog, wrote an interesting post on that blog entitled Mediate, Arbitrate, Negotiate:  What’s a Client to Do?" To read the post, click here.

Mark’s blog entry goes through the options of alternate dispute resolution.  Like Pennsylvania, in New

I just completed a 10 or so day trial (really a binding arbitration).  Why did it take so long?  Were there complicated valuation issues? No.  Complicated alimony issues? No.  Custody issues?  No – custody and parenting time were already settled. 

The answer in large part was one party’s bad faith and need to extract a pound of flesh.  He did not get his pound of flesh and while we await the decision, I doubt he will receive satisfaction there either?

Some examples of the nonsense.  The case started in 2006 when real estate was at its height and the marital home was appraised by a joint appraiser in early 2007.  The case lingered and trial did not start until the fall 2009.  Despite the fact that the law is clear that homes are valued at the date of distribution, the husband opposed a new appraisal.  Why – as every knows, real estate values were going down.  Since he knew that the wife wanted to keep the house, he was trying to use this to his advantage.  Due to the delays, the wife had to get an updated appraisal in January 2008 when the was originally supposed to occur.  She had to get another one in August 2008 before the trial started.  The husband held out and opposed using the joint appraiser, costing the parties more money for experts and then wasting a day trying the issue of the value of the home.


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