FAQ: What is a Temporary Hearing in Family Court?

FAQ: What is a Temporary Hearing in Family Court?

By M. J. Goodwin

A temporary hearing in Family Court is allowed under South Carolina law. A lawyer files a motion for temporary relief and a hearing is scheduled within four weeks. The other party must be served. At these hearings, the Court learns about the issues to be decided for temporary relief by reading affidavits and financial declarations submitted by the parties. For most cases, the affidavits are limited to eight pages. Relief awarded at a temporary hearing is typically without prejudice to a final resolution of the issues. However, a temporary hearing often sets the tone and pattern by which a case will ultimately be resolved.

Temporary relief is necessary when some basic rules for daily living are needed for a divorcing couple, or contentious parents, or other parties with various disagreements.

Not all cases need a temporary hearing. Some typical temporary hearing issues are: child custody, visitation, payment child support or alimony, possession of the home or other property, including vehicles, and restraining orders. Issues such as division of retirement benefits, final divisions of assets and changing surnames are examples of issues that are not appropriate for temporary hearings. Other relief that may be ordered at a temporary hearing include the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, if one is needed, and providing for discovery, or the exchange of necessary information.

I tell clients to think of a temporary order as a “band aid” measure taken by the Family Court until there has been sufficient time to develop the case for a final hearing, which is more akin to “surgery”. This is an over simplification, of course. My point is that one hearing is brief and designed to “stop the bleeding”; whereas a final hearing is long and designed to provide a permanent solution to the problem.

Temporary hearings are typically fifteen minutes long, involve a high level of uncertainty and therefore are very stressful for the client. A huge problem in temporary hearings is that they are often trial by ambush, with no meaningful opportunity to answer allegations levied by the other party. As with all Family Court situations, one is best served by negotiation of a reasonable resolution with the assistance of experienced legal counsel. It is important to be informed and have reasonable expectations of what occurs at a Temporary Hearing. There are certainly times when the Family Court must make temporary relief decisions. In those instances, it is important to prepare well for the hearing and follow the attorney’s instructions.

The easiest way to contact me is by email at mj@mjgoodwin.com Email inquiries are typically answered within 12 hours.

 

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