Divorce – What Happens in a Temporary Hearing?
When two people file for divorce, there are a number of questions that need to be addressed that may not be initially considered. Who is going to stay in the house and who is going to move? What bills are paid by each party and how? Where are the kids going to sleep and when are they going to sleep there?
Unless you can come to an agreement on these issues, the court will decide them for you during a temporary hearing. The average temporary hearing lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. There is no live testimony. Each of the people involved submits eight pages of affidavits supporting their request and a financial declaration showing income and assets. There is no cross examination and sometimes only a few moments of attorney argument to refute allegations or offer explanation.
Due to the reduced evidentiary standards, the results of a temporary hearing are not supposed to have any effect on the eventual outcome of the divorce case. However, the final hearing in a divorce case may not occur for a year or more after the temporary hearing. So, the results of the temporary order can play a major role in your day-to-day life even if not permanent.
For the party who “wins” at the temporary hearing, if the decisions in the final hearing differ, it can be difficult to settle for less than what they believe the court has already granted them. Further, the temporary order creates a status quo that may be difficult to overcome – notably visitation schedules and alimony.
For example, consider two completely equal parents. Both of whom are good parents and have been equal caregivers to the children prior to their separation. One of the parents is given custody of the children at the temporary hearing and the other parent is awarded standard every other weekend visitations.
A year later, the parents still have not agreed on a visitation schedule and they go to trial. The kids are doing well because both of the parties are good parents. Even though the judge is not supposed to consider the temporary order, it is difficult to upset a situation where the children are doing well. So, the visiting parent has to overcome the temporary order to gain more time with his or her kids.
Another issue where the temporary order can have a major impact on the final result is alimony. If alimony is higher than necessary, a supported spouse will be able to increase his or her expenditures to match the lifestyle enabled by that level of alimony. If alimony is set below the necessary amount, the supported spouse will reduce his or her expenditures to match the funds available. In either scenario, the supported spouse’s expenditures during the parties’ separation are relevant at trial.
Simply put, you need an experienced family law attorney who understands the importance of a temporary hearing in a divorce case. The rules only require five business days’ notice before a temporary hearing so it is impossible to prepare as much as one would for a trial. But the sooner you can get a knowledgeable team involved in your dcase, the better prepared you will be for your case.