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What Does It Mean to Request a Trial For Your Divorce?

Cheryl Burke, long-time Dancing with the Stars professional dancer, has officially requested a trial for her divorce from estranged husband, Matthew Lawrence.

The couple got married in 2019 but has been estranged since before Burke initially filed for divorce in February of 2022. By filing for a trial, Burke has made it clear that she does not want to negotiate with Lawrence and also wants the proceedings to be handled as quickly as possible.

A divorce trial is one of several ways couples can petition courts to end their marriages. Trials are typically a solution for spouses who don’t believe they can negotiate with each other. However, scheduling a trial can also give couples a hard deadline to figure out their disagreements and keep a divorce from dragging out. Here’s what you need to know about public divorce trials, when they might be a good option, and alternatives you can use if you want more control over the process.

What Is a Public Divorce Trial

A divorce trial is a legal proceeding where a couple brings multiple issues before the court to decide during their split. Like other kinds of trials, these proceedings take place in a public courtroom before a judge assigned by the judicial system. If either party requests that the divorce is handled through a trial, that request must be honored.

The judge will take testimony from both spouses, children, if any are involved, subject matter experts, and other people relevant to the split. The judge will use this testimony, along with evidence and arguments provided by each party’s lawyers, to make a final decision about all matters the couple brought before them.

These trials can take anywhere from several hours to more than a week, depending on the situation. All the details discussed in the case will become a matter of public record. These trials can also take months to schedule.

For all of these reasons, divorce trials are rarely the most efficient option for a divorce. They’re best for couples who disagree on multiple issues because the judge will decide for them. Trials can also be used to set a firm endpoint for a divorce since the judge will hear all matters involved and issue a final divorce decree covering any unresolved issues.

Alternatives to Divorce Trials

The problems with divorce trials are obvious: they take a long time to schedule, they can force you to spend up to a week in court, and you sacrifice control over how your split will turn out. If you don’t want to submit to a trial, there are several other methods you can use to hash out the details of your split, including:


If you only have one issue you can’t decide on, you can schedule a divorce hearing in front of a judge instead of a trial. In many cases, divorcing couples may schedule multiple hearings to handle issues one at a time. Hearings may also be part of a longer trial process.

These hearings are often used to decide issues like child custody, child support, or the division of specific assets. A hearing is usually a one-day event, at the end of which that particular issue will be decided. The downside of hearings is that they are handled by the public courts, which means that details discussed in the courtroom become matters of public record.


Mediation is the simplest solution for couples who can still cooperate. In mediation, a trained mediator works with you, your spouse, and your respective lawyers to determine how you’ll handle your split. The mediator is there to offer solutions and act as a neutral third party, but they won’t make decisions for you.

With mediation, you and your spouse have complete control over your split. You can negotiate how to split assets, whether spousal support will be paid, and how you want to divide child custody on your own. You’ll present your decisions to the court when you’re done, and they will be made legally binding in your official divorce decree.

Mediation is ideal for couples who can still work together because it ensures you’ll both walk away happy. You don’t need to worry about a judge issuing a decree with which you don’t agree. However, mediation and collaborative divorces may be a waste of time if you don’t think you can negotiate fairly with your ex. The mediator can’t make any decisions for you, so it’s up to you and your spouse to find solutions that you can both accept.


The next solution is arbitration. In this case, you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys will work with an arbitrator. The process works similarly to mediation, but the arbitrator has the power to make decisions for you. For instance, if you can’t decide how to split your assets, the arbitrator can make legally binding choices as long as they follow Oregon laws. As with mediation, the courts will honor the arbitration agreement in your official divorce decree.

Arbitration is an excellent way to manage the negotiation process without worrying about scheduling a court date. They allow you to significantly speed up your split because they don’t require you to wait for an available time in the public court in your county. They’re an excellent alternative for couples who value their privacy but need the structure and finality of someone else making decisions.

Learn More About Options for Your Divorce

If you’re ending your marriage, you have options. You can choose to request a trial if you can’t negotiate with your spouse or want to set a final deadline for your split. Otherwise, you can use hearings, mediation, and arbitration to retain more control over the process.

If you’re not sure which option works best in your situation, you can learn more by scheduling a free consultation with the experts at Regele Law, LLC. You can discuss your circumstances, options, and the best path forward. Get started by calling 503-594-7027 or sending a message online today.