Temporary Orders Are Usually The First Step In A Family Law Case
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive after being retained is “what’s the first step in my family law case?” The short answer is simple: temporary orders.
WHAT ARE TEMPORARY ORDERS?
Temporary Orders apply in almost all family law cases, including divorce, child custody disputes and child support cases. Temporary Orders are the “rules of the road” while the case is pending. They define parental rights and duties, temporary custody rights, possession schedules and child support. In a divorce, Temporary Orders define the expenses each spouse will pay, which car each spouse may drive, and which residence each spouse will possess.
ARE TEMPORARY ORDERS REQUIRED?
Temporary Orders are not required but are generally a good idea. If both parties can work together, Temporary Orders may be unnecessary. The problem with not having Temporary Orders in a family law case is that you don’t need them until you need them. And then, you really need them. For example, if one parent refuses to return the children after their weekend visit, then Temporary Orders will help you get your children back.
WHAT IF WE CANNOT AGREE TO THE TEMPORARY ORDERS?
Temporary Orders are often agreed upon, but not always. For example, if two divorcing parents both want custody of the children, then an agreement is impossible. In those situations, a motion is filed with the court to enter Temporary Orders.
A Temporary Orders hearing is usually conducted within the first 2-4 weeks of a family law case. Family Law Courts do not give a lot of time for these hearings despite the tremendous importance of their outcome. Collin County, for example, only allots each party 20 minutes to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
Once the hearing is concluded, the Temporary Orders are drafted and signed by the Court. These orders will remain in place until they are modified (which is fairly rare) or until the case is resolved.
The importance of Temporary Orders in the overall outcome of your case cannot be overstated. While these orders may be “temporary,” they are important. In child custody cases, they begin to establish a status quo that can be difficult to overcome at trial (which may be held more than a year later). In divorce cases, temporary spousal support can be financial draining to a spouse required to pay while waiting on a trial.
Temporary Orders are almost always good to have. They keep each side honest, and provide each party with the opportunity to “take it to the judge” if the other side does not comply.