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Divorce 101: What to expect at a temporary hearing.

Tonight's post on temporary hearings in divorce was written by our lead Marietta divorce attorney, Jeannine Lowery.

Getting divorced is a process, which usually involves many steps before it's all over. If there are children, or one spouse who needs immediate financial support, one of those steps will be a temporary hearing, which is also called a Rule Nisi. 

Temporary hearings can be requested at the time a divorce is filed and can be used to establish temporary child support, temporary alimony and even a visitation schedule for the children. Temporary hearings are particularly handy to afford relief in emergencies, like where the parties can no longer live in the same house or one spouse is refusing the other visitation with their children.

Temporary hearings can cause stress because of the mere fact they take place in a courtroom in front of a Judge or Judicial Officer. However, temporary hearings are nothing to stress over and can be a great tool to establish some support and structure while your moving through the divorce process.

First things first, expect to wait around.

Much like attendance at the first day of school, temporary hearings usually begin with a roll call. After taking the bench, the Judge will formally call out the style of each case on the calendar, "John Smith v. Jane Smith" to make sure the parties are present. There may be just a few cases on the calendar or dozens.

Once your case is called, your lawyer will stand and make an announcement. This announcement lets the Court know some basic things, including which party the lawyer represents, what the hearing is for, and how long the attorney believes a hearing will take. Depending on the number of cases that need to be heard, you may be waiting around for some time.

Expect your lawyer to reach an agreement without a hearing.

After the calendar is called, the Judge will usually give the attorneys, or parties if they have not hired attorneys, an opportunity to discuss the issues in the case before beginning the hearing. This opportunity for negotiation often leads to the parties settling and agreeing on a temporary consent order, thus avoiding the cost and acrimony of a hearing altogether. Even a partial settlement resolving certain issues can help save costs by reducing the time required for a hearing.

Pretrial conference with the Judge.

In some cases your attorney might request a pretrial conference with the judge in order to determine what the judge is likely to do and what the worst - case scenario might be if the hearing goes forward. If your attorney decides they need the judge's input to make the best decision, they will notify the other attorney. Then both your attorney and your spouses attorney will approach the bench or go into the Judge's chambers and discuss the issue with the Judge asking specific questions.

After the Judge makes an informal assessment about the case, your attorney will report back to you the results and use this information to decide whether a hearing will help you reach your goals. Pretrial conferences are a great cost saving tool because they can help parties assess the risk of letting the Judge decide in a very expedient format.

If the hearing goes forward.

Once the Judge calls the calendar, he or she will announce a schedule for the cases that are ready to be heard. Your case could be heard immediately, later that same day, or even another day of that week. Temporary hearings are similar to a final trial in that your lawyer will have an opening statement, present your case, including evidence, and present a closing statement. Your attorney may ask you to testify and cross-examine your spouse. However, temporary hearings are usually shorter and less formal than a final trial. Temporary hearings are a good opportunity for your lawyer to introduce the facts of your case to the judge and set the stage and tone for the final trial.

What ever happens, its temporary.

Temporary hearings are not a final Judgment. That means that while you may have to live with the results for the divorce process, the Final Order can end up completely different than the temporary Order. That being said, temporary Orders can be a great tool to establish custody, child support and a visitation schedule, bringing order and consistency to the lives of both parents and children during the divorce process. They can also provide immediate relief if one party is not cooperating or acting fairly.

Temporary hearings are nothing to stress over but rather are a useful tool to create a temporary order that will set the ground rules during the divorce process.

Jeannine Lowery 

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