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. 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.
Prior to the parties' attendance at a Temporary Orders Hearing, 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.