How Do I Prepare for Temporary Orders?
By: Jeremy L. Gonzalez and Robert S. Griffin
This article is in no way a replacement for legal advice, or having an attorney, but it does serve as an outline on how to prepare for Temporary Orders.
What are Temporary Orders? This is a questions asked by many starting a Divorce or asking for a Modification to their Parental Orders. Temporary Orders is a process requested after the initial Petition for Divorce or modification is filed. This process often starts within one month of the initial filing of the petition and any granted orders must be followed until modification by the Court or the final orders are granted. Temporary Orders starts with the creation of a Notice for Temporary Orders, and the Court then uses its discretion to set the hearing. Many Courts require mediation prior to the hearing. At the hearing the Court will decide issues, such as the Conservatorship or access to the children, possession of properties, control of a business, or debt required to be paid before trial. A mediated settlement agreement or a Court’s ruling leads to a written order granted by the Court and signed by the Judge. These orders can be changed, if the Court allows, only for the safety and wellbeing of a child. During the hearing, there are rules that need to be followed. Planning and preparing for the hearing is vital. This is a brief explanation of the process and what is needed for you to be prepared for your Temporary Orders.
The best place to start is the beginning. A Notice for Temporary Orders Hearing is generated, sent to the Court, and the Court choses whether to set the hearing. At the hearing, orders can be made that require payments to be made, such as child support, spousal support, medical support, or debts that are needing to be maintained. The Temporary Order can also determine who has conservatorship over a child. The court does recognize that Joint Managing Conservatorship is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. Family violence or allegations of domestic violence, including neglect, physical or sexual abuse, can remove all presumptions and can create for challenging issues where having legal counsel is critical. Temporary Orders are allowable during a Modification, but while a modification is in process the court cannot order the changing of the designation of the person who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence unless certain strict requirements are met. There is a presumption that a Standard Possession Order for possession and access of a child be issued in the Temporary Orders and it is in the best interest of the child. Generally, it is critical to have legal counsel to understand the importance of a Standard Possession Order, or to seek a different schedule. Alternative times can be issued but a decision of these times must be made before or at the time of the rendition of the order.
Planning and preparing for your Temporary Orders Hearing is essential in order to be successful in obtaining your requests. Making a “Wish List” of what you desire to get from this hearing does give both you and the attorney a better understanding of your goals. When completing your “Wish List” please consider the children (if any), Housing, Cars, Goods, Income, and Debts. When speaking with your attorney prioritize as to what is essential and what you are willing to give up. Your attorney will help you determine what is standard or what is unlikely to occur. Often, given time and legal constraints, only so much can be done. Be certain to provide accurate information about your family and personal history. Do not let your attorney get surprised at the hearing. If needed, provide a list of witnesses, including their name, address, and phone number, who would be available to testify. Witnesses can include, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church member, coaches, teacher, doctors or social workers. Providing evidence to back up any claims made is necessary for a successful hearing. Only some things are admissible as evidence, these items are often referred to as Exhibits. Exhibits such as scrapbooks, emails, text messages, school records, medical records, and Social Networking could be used when determining conservatorship, possession, and access of a child. Exhibits such as Tax Returns, Income Statements, Bank Statements and Credit Reports would be sufficient for financial issues. A Temporary Order Hearing is not always necessary. It may be more efficient or reasonable to settle all issues thru mediation instead of in court room. While we cannot always mediate before a Temporary Orders Hearing, if we do have a mediation, bring all the evidence discussed above. Further, if you and the opposing party have already discussed and agree on all issues, then a hearing would not be necessary.
Please keep in mind that not all requests will be obtained. Speaking with your attorney and providing accurate information does give us a better chance of securing the most important requests and preventing unforeseen harm.
Once we are prepared for the hearing, conducting the hearing should not be an issue and often for the lawyers at Griffin & Cain, PLLC, it’s an enjoyable time as we love being in the Courtroom. At the hearing, live testimony will be taken, and that testimony must follow the rules of Evidence. You may be cross examined, and your witnesses may be cross examined. This cross examination can involve impeachment if one can show that the witnesses are bias, have prior convictions, lack of knowledge or a bad reputation. It is important to recognize that this is a team effort and that your witnesses are on your team. Make sure you know their histories, and that they are solidly on your side. Fraternizing with the opponent is not good idea. Your responsibility as a client would be to ensure all the witnesses do keep to themselves and do not gather with other witnesses outside the court room to discuss the case, often called “The Rule”.
After the hearing the decisions that were made are written in an order. All parties sign the order accepting the decision and the order is granted by the court and signed by the Judge. The order can be entered without the parties’ signatures, and the attorneys are required as Officers of the Court to state whether the orders follow the Courts rendition. These orders can be changed, only if needed and with Court permission, for the safety and wellbeing of a child. Therefore, getting right the first time is critical. There are evidentiary and procedural rules that need to be followed, planning and preparing is essential to maximize your chances in Court. These initial decision can have a great impact on your case. So it is vital to ensure that you and your attorney work together and all the information provided is accurate. This is just a brief explanation of the process. Remember this is a team effort and we are working on your side, both as advocate and advisor. Therefore, if you have any questions never feel embarrassed to talk with your attorney and ask the questions you have. That is what you have legal counsel.