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How is a Trial/Hearing Conducted?

The petitioner generally presents his/her case first.

After being sworn in as a witness, the petitioner will tell his/her version of the claims in the case. The petitioner may offer certain documents into evidence. When the petitioner is finished testifying, the respondent may ask some questions–this is called "cross examination".

The respondent will be sworn in as a witness and tell his/her side of the story and present evidence.

After the respondent has finished testifying, the petitioner has the right to cross examine the respondent.

Parties to a lawsuit have a right to object to the introduction of evidence or the way a questions is being asked or answered. The proper way to object is to say "objection". The Judge may ask what the basis is for the objection and if he/she agrees, the Judge will say "sustained" and the evidence will not be admitted. If the Judge disagrees with the objection, the Judge will say "overruled" and the evidence will be admitted.

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What is proper Conduct In Court
  • Parties to a lawsuit are expected to be courteous to each other and to the Court.
  • Parties should speak only to the Judge and not to each other when making legal arguments.
  • Do not get into an argument with the other side.
  • If you disagree with what the other side is saying, tell the Judge, not the other side.
  • Do not interrupt someone who is speaking except if, during the trial/hearing, you have an objection. Wait until the other side or the Judge is finished speaking and then say what you want to say.

Note: The Judge is not allowed to have ex parte communications. An ex parte communication is a conversation or writing between a Judge and only one party to a lawsuit when the other side was not notified in advance that the communication would occur. Therefore, a party should not try to contact a Judge without the other side being given a chance to be present at the discussion.

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What is a Settlement?

A settlement is a voluntary binding agreement that resolves the differences between the parties to a lawsuit. It is put in writing in a document that is sometimes called a "stipulation". In a settlement you can help determine the outcome of a case. In a trial, only a Judge decides its outcome. However, no one can force you to settle a case.

Note: No case should be settled unless and until the settlement has been reviewed by a Judge and you understand the terms of the agreement.

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