What to Expect in a Family Law Hearing

Many people going through divorce or child custody cases will attend family law hearings regarding child custody, child support, spousal support, property control, and/or attorneys fees. However, many of these people expect that these hearings are where the judges finally determine their rights to child custody, child support, etc. Towards that end, many parties want to squeeze in everything that they can possibly think of in order to persuade the judge to rule in their favor.

However, these hearings are really supposed to be only 15 minutes long (although they frequently go longer), and their purpose are mainly for temporary orders pending final resolution of the case, whether final resolution is by trial or by settlement agreement. In 15 minutes, the judge can only absorb or consider so much information. He or she will make his/her decision regarding temporary orders mostly from paperwork filed with the Court and oral argument from the parties or their attorneys, although on occasion the judge may ask some questions directly to the parties. I frequently advise my clients that temporary orders are designed to slap a band aid on the situation, maintain the status quo, and/or make sure nobody is homeless because they don’t have any money. But with only 15 minutes, it is not possible for the judge to consider all facts and evidence that the parties might think are relevant to their case.

During hearings for temporary orders, the Court can take live testimony if a request is made by a party or attorney pursuant to Family Code Section 217. That might convert the 15 minute hearing into an lengthier evidentiary or long cause hearing.

In order to finally resolve your case, and to get final or permanent orders regarding child custody, support, etc., you need a trial if you and your spouse (or coparent) can’t resolve things with an agreement. To schedule a trial, it will take months, how many months depends on the Court’s calendar and availability, hence the need for temporary orders pending trial. Each county courthouse has their own calendaring system.