Before you decide if a Jury or a Judge is better for you, let's break down what each trial would look like.
What is a Bench Trial?In short, a bench trial is one in which a judge determines the outcome of the case. In Texas, civil trials are bench trials by default. Characteristics of a bench trial include:
- Judges act as the finders of fact and makers of conclusions of law;
- Typically shorter/take less time;
- Do not have to be “paid for” prior to trial; and
- Cost substantially less.
How to Decide: Judge or Jury?If your answer is ‘no’ to any of the following questions, a bench trial is likely the better option:
- Does your case involve complicated issues such as international child abduction, dividing a business, etc.?
- Did you and your spouse ever have Temporary Orders?
- Can a lay jury understand the complicated issues, defenses, and other evidence presented? If the outcome of your case depends on a legal question, a judge may be the better choice.
- Do you want to have a lengthy trial?
- Do you have enough money saved or otherwise available to fund it? (i.e. court costs, attorney fees, etc.)
- Do you have an attorney?
What is a Jury Trial?In a jury trial, the right to decide select issues falls to a panel of individuals instead of the judge. The characteristics of a jury trial may include:
- Allowing the jury to decide on the status of a marriage in divorce cases;
- Allowing the jury to decide the grounds for divorce, if one party alleges that their spouse is at fault;
- Allowing the jury to decide on the enforceability of pre and post-marital agreements;
- Characterizing property as separate or community, and the subsequent division of property; and
- Must be “paid for” prior to assignment of a trial date; proper notice to all parties is also required.
- Can you relate to a jury? Better yet, could a jury relate to you?
- Are you comfortable testifying in the presence of other people?
- Does your case have “sympathetic facts”?
- Do you think that a jury of your peers would agree with your stance on the case?
- Is your attorney experienced in trying Texas jury trials to a verdict?
- Has your attorney successfully tried at least 5 jury trials in Texas to a verdict? If not, you should seek an attorney with experience with trying jury trials to a verdict.
- Do you have enough money saved or available to fund the jury trial?
Now that you have an idea of what trial would best for you, it's time to consult with an experienced lawyer who will be able to provide more details on what may occur during the trial. For more Texas Court Resources, check out our blog.