If you or someone you know faces pending divorce action, and it’s worth knowing there are a couple of different types of hearings for which you may prepare. Additionally, you can provide aid to your legal team by paying close attention to the purpose of each type of hearing, as well as what procedures take place within them.
First, there are two types of hearings: the temporary orders hearing and the evidentiary hearing.
Temporary Orders Hearing
The temporary orders hearing typically takes place in the earliest stages of a case and is designed to determine basic interim issues such as which spouse will be living in the home, who will be taking care of the kids, who will be responsible for paying the bills, whether one of the parties will need to pay child support, and other common concerns.
Often, couples that can reach agreement on these matters can avoid going to court. However, if the partners cannot reach a settlement, a judge will be necessary to resolve the case.
In that instance, an evidentiary hearing is introduced.
The evidentiary hearing is similar to a final trial where evidence and testimony are brought forward. In fact, whether you’re preparing for temporary orders or for trial, there are several common facets to be aware of—especially when it comes to how evidence is collected and used, as well as what types of evidence have legitimate value in divorce proceedings.
What follows are some important notes to consider when it comes to preparing for an evidentiary hearing:
- There are significant time constraints.
Plaintiffs do not receive carte blanche when it comes to telling their side of the story. Each spouse must narrow their focus to the most salient and important points. The court is only interested in the most critical information and only in information it can validate.
- Custody concerns usually cause the most conflict.
You can help your lawyer by delivering a detailed timeline or calendar which establishes when you’ve had the kids and when your partner has had the kids. This is particularly useful if one of the two spouses travels a lot.
- Recording communication between you and your spouse can be beneficial.
Save and document text messages or emails that transpire between you and your spouse—especially any expressions that might be inflammatory. Some individuals will also keep audio recordings of interactions which can be helpful if one party is belligerent, threatening, or verbally abusive.
- Not everything is “evidence.”
There are restrictions on what can be presented as evidence in court. Beyond the time constraints, there’s also limitations on the type of information that the court is allowed to consider.
Rules of evidence limit the testimony to that which is deemed reliable and that which can be authenticated. For example, an allegation based on what your neighbor claims to have happened while you were away for the weekend is generally considered to be little more than hearsay by the courts.
Evidence worth tracking for your legal representation might be items like school records, physician’s records, or a business records affidavit.
- Witnesses can be called to verify your claims.
Regardless of the type of hearing, lawyers will introduce to the court witnesses who know you well, have seen your parenting style, or perhaps even have insight into any business or financial concerns that have become a topic for debate.
Character witnesses can also be very helpful when it comes to validating a plaintiff’s arguments. The less often that a judge must decipher the truth within a “he said/she said” argument, the better it is for all involved.
Pay close attention to who you’re calling as a witness. Obviously, time constraints discourage calling everyone you know. Make sure your witnesses bring something substantial to the hearing. The courts seek information that provides a clearer understanding of what’s going on.
- Sometimes lawyers use “expert” witnesses.
If you need to have the finances of your family business assessed or some real estate estimated, you will likely need to have an expert testify as to the value of the property or the business.
- The amount of time the process can take varies court to court.
Many people want to know how long will a divorce take. There is no clear answer to that question. The rendering of decisions and the pace of the court varies from county to county and judge to judge.
Some temporary orders hearings can be as brief as 20 minutes. Meanwhile, full trials can take multiple days for the judge to reach a verdict. Most of the factors that determine how quickly or how slowly the proceedings happen are dependent upon the nature of the hearing, how amicable the parties choose to be, and how prepared each side is when asked to present reliable and useful evidence.