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A merits hearing is where parties will present any and all evidence and/or testimony/witnesses to show that the issue they are raising has merit. A court will take the evidence and facts and decide on the issues. If you do not have evidence or witnesses, then the court will use what is presented by the other party.
So to prepare, you need to know what the issues are and then gather and organize your evidence to present to the court.
The grounds could be an issue as well as the property. I cannot tell you for certain because I am not privy to your situation personally. But yes, anything that is being contested is an issue and would have a merits hearing
If you are in trial, yes. That is how it would work. I am sorry but I cannot answer details like this because I don't know your specific situation well enough to do that. But she will present evidence and testimony and you can question her witnesses. If you are acting pro se, then you should get a book on the matter so that her attorney is not constantly interrupting you with objections on how you are questioning the witnesses, etc. Go to your local library and get a book on this.
There are many things that can happen and procedures that will take place. Unfortunately, I cannot go through each and every one for you. For instance, there should be a scheduling conference and then you can request Discovery to see who the witnesses are and what evidence she has, etc
That is done through the courts. You need to file for it. And then serve the other party. It is a pleading that needs to be drafted. Really, it appears you are so in over your head in trying to represent yourself in this matter. Is there a reason you do not have a local attorney representing you?
Perhaps, you should consider local representation so all your rights are preserved.
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