Temporary Relief Hearings

Given the amount of time it can take to finalize a divorce through the legal system, it is sometimes necessary for divorce court judges to make rulings early on in a case, to address issues relating to support, children, and other financial matters such as making one spouse contribute towards the payment of the other’s legal fees and costs. The divorce court judges address these issues through what is called a “temporary relief hearing.”

Temporary relief hearings are especially useful for “setting straight” the behavior of a spouse who cuts off their spouse/family financially, or plays wicked games with children for purposes of obtaining leverage in the early stages of the divorce.

Divorce court judges understand that some spouses will go to extreme lengths to force their spouse into taking a poor settlement or dropping the divorce. When confronted with this type of behavior, the judge can issue orders to correct the situation by ordering payment of financial support, establishing a temporary custody schedule, and putting in place other temporary remedies like requiring one spouse to move out of the house, or pay for the other person’s divorce lawyer.

Unless there is a life or death emergency, most divorce court judges will not allow spouses to schedule a temporary relief hearing until they have attempted to settle their divorce through a Mediation. The theory behind this is that since many people settle their entire divorce at an early mediation, everyone should try to do so before wasting public resources having the judge decide temporary issues that are only in effect until the divorce is finalized.

Temporary relief hearings are short. The hearing will usually only be thirty minutes in length, giving each spouse fifteen minutes to present their side of the case.

This relatively brief amount of time to present evidence from potentially multiple witnesses on issues that sometimes include both setting a temporary timesharing schedule for the children, determining alimony and child support, and addressing the issue of how much a spouse will need to pay their lawyer through trial.

The short amount of time allotted for these hearings makes it so only the important testimony and evidence is presented. Most people walk out of these hearings and wonder how the judge knows enough about their situation to decide anything. However, divorce court judges can regularly handle five or more of these types of hearings a week in addition to their regular trial schedule. As a result, after only a short time on the bench, divorce court judges essentially become machines programmed to hone in on the evidence they need to make temporary rulings.

The theory behind allotting such a brief amount of time for a hearing that can decide important financial and children’s issues, is that sometimes people need a divorce court judge to “step in” and stabilize a family’s situation by making a quick ruling that makes sure the basic bills continue to get paid, the children are okay, and that “status quo” is preserved as much as possible, while each spouse prepares their case for a final settlement or trial.

The thought is that since the judge’s decision is only “temporary”, and any inequities can be corrected later, why allow spouses to take up hours of the court’s time?

Although temporary relief rulings are supposed to be only temporary, the ruling can go a long way towards influencing a spouse to settle their case. In many instances, if the divorce court judge does not give a spouse what they want on a temporary alimony or child custody issue, the spouse will feel like they’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get a different result from the same judge at trial.

Some people who are in this position end up settling their case instead of paying their divorce lawyer the significant costs of trial to potentially get them the same result.  With this being the case, if your spouse is making unreasonable settlement demands, your Best Divorce strategy might be to persuade your spouse to become more reasonable by getting the judge to take your side in a temporary relief hearing.