In our last issue, we discussed the purposes of a temporary hearing in Family Court. Here, we will discuss which forms and documents will be used in the temporary hearing.
Except in unusual circumstances, the parties in a case do not testify in temporary hearings. Testifying is when you verbally tell the Judge what you have observed and what you are asking of the Court. Instead, in temporary hearings, the parties and witnesses express their positions, observations, and opinions by completing affidavits. An affidavit is a written, signed and notarized statement.
The parties in the case should prepare their own affidavits with the assistance of their attorneys. They may also want to use affidavits from additional witnesses. Your attorney may provide a form for you to give to witnesses so that the witnesses can prepare their own affidavits. The most helpful witnesses are generally people who are assumed to be neutral. For example, a child’s teacher or a pastor’s affidavit may be considered useful to the Judge’s decision if the witness writing the affidavit has observed events that are relevant to the issue.
If the issue is which parent should get custody, some relevant facts may include which parent helped the child with schoolwork, which parent appeared at teacher conferences, which parent takes the child to religious services, or how each parent interacts with the child. Witnesses who have not observed the parent with the child, may be able to provide other useful information. For example, the parent’s boss may write an affidavit about the parent’s good work ethic. While these facts may not be quite as relevant to the issue of custody, they still may help the Judge with his or her decision.
There may be some evidence that could be attached to an affidavit, such as photos, bills or medical records. Your attorney can help determine which attachments are appropriate and would be helpful.
Financial declarations are also required at temporary hearings. A financial declaration lists a party’s income, bills, debts, and the value of their property. Financial declarations are also sworn, notarized statements. It is important to be truthful in your financial declaration. Also, carefully review the other party’s financial declaration. Point out any mistakes to your attorney.
If there are children involved in your Court case, you will also prepare a temporary proposed parenting plan. This document shows the Court what you believe would be best for the children. It includes a schedule for the child seeing both parents. You can also list necessary restrictions in a parenting plan. For example, you could ask that the child not be exposed to R-rated movies. In most cases, Judges want children to spend significant time with both parents. If you believe it is unsafe for your child to spend time with the other parent, you and your attorney will need to explain why it is unsafe. Your attorney may have other forms and steps they advise you to complete for the best chance of success.
As you can see, preparation for a temporary hearing can take some time. Whenever you let the Judge decide an issue, you are giving up control about how it will be decided. Also, the Judge does not know about your life. You do. For that reason, it is always best to see if there is way to reach an agreement before you let the Judge decide. The Judge will often ask if you have tried yet to reach an agreement with the other party. If there are children involved, the Judge will want to know that you are trying to do what is best for the children. A temporary hearing is one step of many Family Court cases. What is decided at the temporary hearing may be changed in the future, but it is important to spend time preparing for your best chance of success.