In many Divorce, Legal Separation and Child Custody actions, a Temporary Orders hearing becomes necessary so that a variety of urgent matters can be addressed without waiting until the case becomes final. A Temporary Orders hearing is usually held before the District Court Magistrate, during the early stages of a “new” case filing. The District Court Magistrate's authority to serve as the judge for a Temporary Orders hearing is governed by the rules established for Magistrates.
When the parties schedule a Temporary Orders hearing, the rules provide that one of the parties prepare and file a Notice to Set Temporary Orders so that both parties are on notice as to the date and time that the Clerk will be called to obtain a future hearing date. The Notice to Set will not require the parties to attend any kind of hearing. As an example, if a Notice to Set Temporary Orders has been filed, it must give both parties at least 7 days advance notice as to the date when the parties or their legal counsel are to telephone the Clerk and obtain a Temporary Orders hearing date. When the date for Temporary Orders is obtained, with the parties agreements as to the date and time, a Notice of Temporary Orders will be filed.
The amount of actual time that a judge will allot to the parties for a Temporary Orders Hearing varies. As an example, in Colorado Springs there are several judges who will allot only 1 hour for a Temporary Orders hearing and will tell the parties that the time will be divided equally. This means that the Petitioner will have 30 minutes, or less, and the same would apply for the Respondent. The Temporary Orders hearing requires the introduction of testimony and evidence in order for the judge to make rulings. Most judges will tell the parties what those rulings are upon the conclusion of all testimony, introduction of evidence and legal argument of counsel. The Temporary Orders rulings are based upon the judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law and the rules require that the Temporary Orders be reduced to a written form for the judge's signature. The Magistrate Rules provide for a “review” of Temporary Orders within 15 days of the date of the Court's entry of the written orders, consistent with Magistrate Rule 7. Therefore, parties will be placed in the position of having to follow the Temporary Orders until the case is finalized, which in many cases could be months later.
The purpose of a conducting a Temporary Orders hearing varies from case to case. However, the basic subjects that can be considered for presentation to the judge at Temporary Orders are as follows:
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: There is a statute in Colorado that allows for the Court to enter Temporary Orders which requires one of the parties to pay the other a monetary amount each month.
- Child Support: Colorado law states that Child Support is the right of every child to receive, and this monthly amount is calculated pursuant to the law and guidelines. In many situations, the parties are going to want to have the judge determine which party will be financially responsible for the children's health insurance, out of pocket or uncovered medical or dental bills, extracurricular sports expenses, work or education related child care costs, etc.
- Payment of Marital Debts, Bills, and Expenses: These are the kinds of expenses that must be paid until the case is finalized, and can involve joint expenses and bills such as credit card debts, the mortgages and utilities for the marital residence, car payments, auto insurance, etc.
- Parental Responsibilities: This is a very broad category under the law that provides for the care, custody and control of the parties' minor children. The judge will be required to follow the “best interests” standard as set forth in Colorado Revised Statute Section 14-10-124 et. seq. For Temporary Orders, parents or custodians of children, can request which parent be the primary residential or majority parent, a determination as to how decisions will be made for all major decisions (i.e. sole decision making with one parent or co-joint decision making), a division of upcoming holidays or summer parenting time, and other important or urgent parenting concerns.
- Attorney's Fees: Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-119, the judge has the discretion to impose Attorney's Fees for or against one of the parties: “The court from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any [Domestic Relations/Family Law] proceeding . . . “
- Other: There may be other important issues that the judge has the discretion to allow be heard as part of Temporary Orders. An example of “other” disputed Temporary Orders matters that a judge has the discretion to determine, could be whether a planned out-of-state vacation by one of the parents should occur or not, and how to deal with the travel expenses of such a vacation or trip.
Prior to the parties' attendance at a Temporary Orders Hearing, the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure require that the parties conduct a “good faith settlement conference” to fully discuss all temporary orders disputes. If an agreement is reached as a result of the parties' settlement conference, the terms of the agreement must be reduced to writing, signed by legal counsel and both parties and submitted for approval by the judge. When an agreement (Stipulated Temporary Orders) is submitted to the Court that addresses Temporary Orders, the hearing itself can be vacated or cancelled.
Because of the potentially long term consequence of Temporary Orders, I always recommend that parents put forth their best efforts to be civil towards each other and work for the benefit of their children. This often times means setting aside personal animosities and placing the children's needs ahead of their own. A Temporary Orders hearing is no less as important as other proceedings in the family court, and with the kinds of legal issues at stake, it is always recommended that you obtain the advice of an extremely well qualified Family Law Attorney to give you proper advice and counsel.