If your divorce trial ends up in court, you can request that a jury be present. Jurors provide a unique outside perspective to help settle complicated divorce matters, like asset division and child visitation rights.
Studies have uncovered a great deal about how groups of jurors think – what makes them empathetic to one party over another and what persuades them to change their minds. As soon as you know your case is going before a jury, you and your legal team must shift focus from “just the facts” to considering how you will relate to your jurors. And, of course, what you can do to increase the chances of them selecting a ruling that favors your interests.
Psychology and Law
When jurors are deciding fault in a divorce trial, they typically use two methods to determine right actions from wrong actions. The first is established laws and rules. For example, if a plaintiff was charged with breaking and entering into the home of their spouse’s lover. Despite the fact that the other spouse was the one cheating, more often than not, the jury will look unfavorably upon the one who blatantly broke a law.
The other method jurors use to determine fault in a divorce case is their personal standard of conduct and beliefs. Essentially this means that, if one spouse has habits or behaviors that run counter to “social norms,” the jurors may hold it against them – even if that spouse isn’t doing any harm. For example, jurors may feel puzzled or uncomfortable upon finding out that a mother puts a toddler through intensive exercise programs or a father allows a nine-year-old to stay home alone. Whether or not there is anything wrong with such behaviors is for the jury to debate, but members are generally uncomfortable with extreme or unusual behaviors that fall outside social normalcy.
A big part of the jury’s decision hinges on your actions right there in the courtroom. It should go without saying that all parties involved should dress, speak and act professionally. Beyond that, keeping your emotional responses in check will demonstrate that you are reasonable, thoughtful and self-possessed. Bad behavior in the courtroom isn’t limited to angry outbursts. Sarcasm, eye rolling, interrupting, body language that demonstrates annoyance, and huffing and puffing when you don’t like what your ex is saying all needs to be avoided. You want jurors to have confidence in your ability to handle children, a household, finances and properties – and impatient behaviors won’t work in your favor.
Finally, a huge part of appealing to your jurors is displaying honest actions. Some spouses let their fear or anger get the best of them, and resort to provoking or tricking their ex into bad behavior. From years of experience, we can say that jurors are pretty good at sniffing out disingenuous ploys to make the other party look bad – and they’re never impressed by it. Entrapment, snooping, manipulation and all-around sneakiness are surefire ways to end up in the jury’s crosshairs. Juries tend to respect people who are genuine, compassionate and reasonable – even if they are imperfect.
Dealing with judges and juries is no simple matter. Nichols Law has been helping our clients wade through the details of divorce court for decades. For help preparing for your own divorce trial, contact us today.