What is a “Temporary Orders” Hearing?
You’ve tried to make it work but, unfortunately, your relationship with your spouse is over and you need to file for divorce. But you’ve heard that in Texas a divorce can’t be finalized until 60 days have passed from the date of filing, at the earliest. Often times, because of hurt feelings and extreme bitterness, divorce cases can turn into lengthy battles. What’s more, with the abundance of cases on the court’s docket your final trial may be scheduled months and months away. In the meantime your bills aren’t going anywhere. You still have to pay your mortgage, utilities, car note, and now you’ll likely have attorney fees to pay too. And what about the children? How will you determine custody, child support, and visitation schedules during the indeterminate in-between period from when you file your divorce case until you get your day in court for a final trial?
A Temporary Orders Hearing is basically a mini-trial that is often held within a matter of weeks of the initial divorce filing. A Judge will review exhibits entered into evidence, hear testimony of witnesses, and entertain arguments by both sides about what should be done with their property and/or children during the pendency of their divorce case. Often times, the point of this hearing is to preserve the status quo, meaning to get a temporary court order to keep things the way they have been going until a final decision can be reached at trial. Other times, the Court may be asked to make decisions that will significantly change the current circumstances.
For example, the parties may have just recently separated into two different residences, thus requiring a determination of which home will serve as the children’s primary residence, who will pay child support, and how much they should pay. If neither party has moved out a spouse may request temporary exclusive use of the marital residence during the pendency of the divorce. A spouse with a lower earning potential might request the court to order their interim attorney’s fees paid, and possibly even temporary spousal support until the divorce is finalized. Whatever is decided at the hearing is then incorporated into a formal document and signed by the Judge. This document becomes a roadmap that the parties must abide by under penalty of contempt.
It’s important to note that whatever is determined at the Temporary Orders Hearing is just that, temporary. In most counties both sides have very limited time to present their case to a Judge for temporary orders. The provisions of temporary orders can be changed at a final trial based on depositions, written discovery, inventory and appraisements of the marital estate, home studies, and the ability to have more testimony presented to the court at a multi-day trial.
However, while any temporary order provision can be changed at a final trial, often times a Judge will follow the provisions of a temporary order at a final hearing unless there is good reason to change it. That’s why it’s very important to have an experienced Family Law attorney in your corner during a Temporary Orders Hearing. A large number of important issues can be decided at this early stage of the divorce process, and presenting a well organized argument early on can help secure your chances of a favorable outcome later.