Represent Yourself in Court FAQ

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What are the stages of a typical trial?

Allowing for many possible variations, most trials begin with each side making an opening statement: Each party presents an overview of his case, including what he expects to prove. The next stage is the direct examination, during which the plaintiff (the person who filed the suit) presents her testimony as to what happened and supports it with witnesses' statements and other relevant evidence. After each of the plaintiff's witnesses testifies, the defendant gets a chance to cross-examine them. In doing so, the defendant attempts to produce testimony favorable to his version of events and to cast doubt on the reliability or credibility of the plaintiff's witnesses. After the plaintiff has presented all her witnesses, then the defendant presents his witnesses and relevant evidence, and the plaintiff cross-examines. Finally, each side gets to make a closing argument explaining to the judge or jury why they should win.

Want more information on what to expect in court? Check out Nolo's article Ten Tips for Staying Sane in Court.

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