Family Court Decisions: Temporary Orders

When a couple separate, there are many issues that must be determined. The court can take a long time to determine these issues. Some issues like child support, child custody, alimony, possession of the marital home, etc must be decided immediately before the divorce decree is passed. You can apply to the court to pass temporary orders on these issues.

Family courts can pass temporary orders. In some states, a spouse can seek a temporary order even before filing the divorce papers. The court will generally schedule the hearing within days or weeks. Temporary orders generally decide on issues that must be resolved quickly and are given temporary effect until the divorce decree is passed. Although these orders are temporary, the court may consider then when passing formal orders. The hearings for a temporary order is less formal and less time consuming than normal family court hearings. Here are some issues on which the family court can pass temporary orders:

• Alimony
• Visitation schedule and child custody
• Marital home possession or sale
• Possession of family care
• Child support
• Medical expenses not covered by insurance
• Health insurance
• Restraining order
• Injunction against the other spouse from selling a valuable asset

Temporary orders are just that – temporary. The court can change it at any time.

Temporary Orders for Child Custody

If you and your separating spouse are able to resolve all issues amicably and without having to go to court, it will save you from the hassle of having to let the court decide on the issues. You should ensure that whatever you and your spouse mutually agree is written down on paper and made into a formal agreement that is submitted to the court.

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on any issue, you should immediately seek a temporary order, especially if the two of you haven’t reached an agreement on who gets custody of the child(ren). If the child is in your custody, you should immediately file an application for custody. In the absence of any such application, you can be accused of kidnapping by your spouse. This can have an adverse affect on your custody application.

Requesting a Temporary Order

You must file the forms with the family court. These forms can be downloaded from the court’s website or collected from the court clerk. If you cannot complete these forms by yourself, ask the court staff for assistance. They will direct you to the department within the court that has been set up to assist people like you. Please check with your state laws whether or not you can file for a temporary order. In some states you can apply for a temporary order before filing your divorce papers while in others you can file only after your divorce papers are filed. The exact requirements vary from one state to another but here are the general requirements:

Order to show cause – This document must form part of your application. This document informs your spouse about the relief you are seeking and calls on your spouse to show cause as to why your application should not be allowed.

Supporting declaration – A supporting declaration states the facts on which you are seeking the temporary order. On this declaration you must explain why you are seeking the temporary relief. You can also include declarations from others in declaration. Do not provide any false information on this declaration or you will be charged with perjury.

Proposed temporary order – This document is essentially the order that you are seeking. If the judge signs it, it becomes a valid order.

Proof of service – You must provide proof of service – that your spouse has been served with the papers in accordance with your state law.

Temporary Order Hearing

At the hearing, the judge will:

• review your application
• consider the facts presented by you
• question you and your spouse to verify the exact position
• hear your spouse’s side of the story and
• consider the state child support guidelines and your finances

In most cases, temporary order hearings are sent to probation. This offers an opportunity for the parties to try and reach an agreement on all the issues or on as many issues as possible before a judge finally hears the case. This helps save time for both the court and the parties.

If any of the issues remain unresolved, the parties will have to argue it out before the judge. Temporary order hearings do not generally last for more than 20 minutes. The judge will hear the parties and any witnesses, consider the evidence and then pass an order. In some cases, the judge may pass the order on the spot after the hearing but in some cases it can take up to a week. Once a temporary order is granted, the court can subsequently make it a permanent order or modify it as it sees fit.

If you are requesting for temporary child support, you must submit your income documents as well as other documents to support your expenses. Most courts have a fill in the blanks income and expenditure form. Please check you the local laws and rules in your area.

If the judge determines that there is insufficient information on record to pass appropriate orders or that your spouse did not receive sufficient notice to respond to the application, the judge may pass an order that is effective only the next hearing.

The temporary order can include any agreement reached between the parties before the hearing including the agreements reached in probation. The agreement must be submitted to the court and the judge will review it to see that it is in accordance with the law and is not unfair to one party. If it is in order, the judge will approve it and the agreement will be part of the temporary order.

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