A temporary hearing is a type of trial that is exclusive to the areas of contested divorce and contested family law cases. A temporary hearing is not a hearing to determine the outcome of the total case but rather to settle one or more issues that may need to be addressed prior to the final hearing or the continuance of the court case. The primary objective of a temporary hearing is to determine a partial outcome while a family court action is pending. During a temporary hearing a judge may hear a portion of the entire case in an open court room or in his private chambers; attorneys may only be present or one party may be present- as is the case in ex-party hearings. The areas concerning temporary hearings are varied and may be unique to each cases circumstances, but examples of such cases may include but are not limited to deciding where parties will reside, which party may remain in the marital home, who is responsible for particular bills, who will maintain the vehicle, if alimony/spousal support is granted, determining if a party is responsible for attorney’s fees, determining the physical custody and placement of the children, the perimeters of visitation for a parent, and or the amount of child support to be paid by a parent.
A temporary hearing is presented much like a final hearing as both attorneys provide an overview of the case in opening statements, call witness to testify, argue the case in front of the judge, and make closing statements for clarification. There are particular rules for temporary hearings which limit how a case is reviewed. For example temporary hearings within the court may be witnessed by other parties / the public in the court room, but may not be subjected to determination by a jury. Additional rules limit all temporary hearing to any two live witnesses- including the party’s testimony. Further testimony at temporary hearings may be used and included in the form of affidavits or sworn statements of information related to the case. During a temporary hearing all testimony and presentation is brief and may be limited to significant time restrictions. It is important for all participants in a temporary hearing to remain strictly on topic of relevant issues and to not get distracted on irrelevant details of a separate or future court action.
Usually only one temporary hearing is required in most contested divorce or contested family law cases. However, an prolonged divorce or child custody action may be divided into multiple temporary hearings prior to the finalization of the entire case. This allows for the judge to make more concise decisions on matters that require more attention and could become overlooked in a large convoluted final hearing. A resolution of a temporary hearing may also provide precedence in how a judge may rule on a particular issue during the final hearing. For example a judge may issue a temporary hearing to hear matters relating to visitation and may as a result issue a temporary visitation schedule that will act as precedence for the final visitation schedule and outcome at a final hearing.
Following a temporary hearing a Judge will provide a temporary court order that will remain in effect until the final court action/order is granted, signed, and obtained by both parties respectively. While the temporary order may act as precedence for the final order the issuance of a temporary order does not mean that the final order will be entirely determined by the existence or governance of the previous order. It is important to note that a temporary hearing and a final hearing are not conducted by the same practices of law. Individuals preparing for a temporary hearing should be mindful that the tone or influence of any one of their temporary hearings could impact the overall conclusions formed in the final hearing / final order.