Prepping for Your Divorce Trial: Top 5 Tips (From a Divorce Lawyer)

divorce trial

What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, Part III

Walking into a courtroom for your divorce trial can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect.

In this third and final installment of our series “What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You,” Hightower Reff Law partner attorney Tracy Hightower shares her top 5 tips so you can prep for your divorce trial.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” At Hightower Reff law, we believe helping our clients prepare for their divorce trial is one of our most important functions as divorce lawyers. Over the years as an Omaha divorce lawyer, I’ve found there are lots of things clients can do to improve their chances of reaching their goals. Now I’m sharing with you my top five tips for prepping for your divorce trial.


1. Block your calendar.

Plan to devote the day to your divorce trial, including:

  • Make plans in advance to take time off from work
  • Be proactive — ask your attorney if they need time to meet with you before the trial day to prepare you for your testimony or other things
  • Don’t be surprised if the original trial date gets continued (moved to another day) at the last minute, or if you don’t finish in one day


2. Prep for live testimony.

Witnesses for you or for your spouse will testify in person before the judge. You and your spouse will likely testify as well.

  • In “temporary” hearings you may have had during your divorce pre-trial motions, your lawyer probably presented evidence on your behalf by affidavit. That’s a written document, signed under oath. Trials are different.
  • At trial, witnesses testify in person. Affidavits aren’t allowed.


3. Your lawyer may not call all the witnesses you want — and that’s okay.

Your lawyer will only call the best witnesses. That almost always means witnesses with firsthand, personal knowledge.

  • In a nutshell, your witness must have firsthand, personal knowledge to testify. They can’t testify about out of court statements of others, or information they got from another person.
  • The most basic first step in determining if a testimony from a witness may be hearsay is to figure out whether the witness was the originator of the information. If not, it’s probably hearsay.
  • For example, your mom can’t testify about your pediatrician’s opinion that your son’s asthma is aggravated during visits to the other parent’s house.
  • There are other things that go into a hearsay determination, and it can get complicated.
  • Tell your attorney about the possible witnesses you believe may have personal knowledge relevant to the issues of your divorce. It’s their job to figure out who’s to testify at trial.


4. Dress your best.

The impression you make on the court is important. Appearance and grooming are key.

  • Your lawyer won’t come to court in jeans or a team sweatshirt. They dress to show respect for the court and to present a professional image for their clients and for themselves. If you do the same on trial day, you can’t go wrong.
  • The court will be assessing your credibility and perhaps your fitness as a parent. Making a good first impression by dressing appropriately and respectfully can only help boost your credibility.


5.  Control your face.

No matter what unbelievably shocking stupidity comes out of your spouse’s mouth, try to keep a straight face.

  • If you roll your eyes or make weird faces, the judge will see it. Most times, that isn’t a good thing. As hard as it may be, try to keep a neutral face — or at least not look like this (or anything close.)
  • Crying is okay. Divorces are emotional. The judge understands. You can be authentically emotional in court, you just can’t be rude or out of control. If you feel you need a few minutes, let your attorney know.

If you have questions before your divorce trial, don’t be afraid to ask your divorce attorney. They are there to support you through the process.

If you missed Part I of the series, read it here.

Catch up with Part II here.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.

 For More Information:

Learn more about Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s family law services.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce or other family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Divorce Property Settlement Tax Pitfalls – Hiding won’t Help. Divorce and Taxes Part III

Divorce property settlement tax pitfalls can be an unpleasant post-divorce surprise. Hiding, unfortunately, won’t make the problem go away.

Marital property transfers to one spouse or another during or related to a divorce generally don’t bring tax consequences. However, like most generalities, there are always exceptions.

In Part I of this series, I talked about your divorce dream team. I suggested that, along with an experienced divorce lawyer like those at Hightower Reff law, a tax attorney or a CPA may be a valuable part of your divorce team. Possible divorce property settlement tax pitfalls are yet another reason to consider enlisting a tax pro during your divorce.

Divorce Property Settlement Tax Pitfall 1 – Selling the House 

You must report gain or loss from the sale of jointly owned property on your taxes in the tax year of the sale. Your individual state’s law determines what your share of that gain or loss amounts to. This is another area that can get sticky, and where a tax attorney or CPA can be helpful.

If you sell your primary home when you’re no longer married, watch out. Your tax basis on the capital gain is different than it would have been when you were married. Married couples filing jointly can exclude up to $500,000 of gain from the sale, while single tax filers can only exclude half that amount, at $250,000.

When the Primary Residence Exclusion Doesn’t Count

One of the most common divorce property settlement tax pitfalls happens when a divorcing couple keeps the family home in both of their names after the divorce. It’s often so one spouse can live there with the children until they’re grown.

The spouse who no longer has the house as their primary residence often ends up with an expensive tax consequence when it’s sold years later.


IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home, is a helpful read that includes special rules you should know if you’re separated or divorced and selling a main home.

The non-recognition rule – isn’t always recognized

Usually you don’t pay taxes on division of marital assets because of divorce. That’s because the “non recognition rule” doesn’t recognize a gain or loss on property transfer between spouses or former spouses (so long as the transfer between former spouses is because of divorce.)

However, there are some circumstances in which the IRS considers a property transfer as a gain by one spouse – which means it’s taxable.

 Non-taxable transfers

Some other things you may not think of that you can transfer without tax consequences during or incident to a divorce (under definition of IRS regulations):

  • Health savings account (HSA)
  • Archer medical savings account (MSA)
  • Individual retirement arrangement (IRA)   (stay tuned for more on this)

Next in the series

Next time in the final installment of Divorce and Taxes, we’ll have a look at key points to know about retirement account division roadblocks when it comes to your tax bill.

(If you missed Part I or Part II of the series, you can catch them here.)

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

Author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower, holds both a Juris Doctor and  a Master of Laws in Taxation. For more about Tracy, visit her profile page.

If you need help with an Omaha area divorce or other Omaha family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office