There are 5 Steps in every divorce and custody case in Texas. Temporary Orders are the most heavily litigated part of a divorce or family law matter, because they occur at the beginning of a case, when emotions are at their highest and uncertainty is at its greatest. Also, the Temporary Orders tend to become permanent, so it is important that you receive the best outcome possible in your Temporary Orders. If not, you may face a huge hurdle if you later attempt change or remove any of those orders. Texas is one of the few states that lacks Legal Separation and Temporary Orders largely take the place of this.
A Temporary Orders hearing can occur as quickly as 4 days after a divorce or custody suit is filed. Normally the hearings take place 2 to 4 weeks after the filing date. The hearing can last anywhere from 1 hour to 5 days, but most are 1 day or so. That means that if you were recently served with a notice of a hearing, you should consult an attorney quickly to give them time to prepare. Additionally, these hearings are like mini-trials. Many of the same rules of evidence and procedure apply, but there is much less preparation. Additionally, if your case involves children, you’ll likely need to attend mediation prior to the hearing.
This compressed schedule and the high stakes really puts a premium on the quality of your attorney. Surprises are common in Temporary Orders hearings, and much rarer at trial. This is because typically no discovery has been done yet at the time of your Temporary Orders hearing. Without discovery, oftentimes you have not been made aware of all of the evidence that will be used in trial.
A Temporary Orders hearing is like a mini-trial. There is a Judge (not a Jury as in a final trial) that hears evidence and makes rulings. Witnesses are called, anyone from the clients to friends/neighbors to teachers or mental health professionals. You will be thrown into a very difficult situation (being cross-examined by opposing counsel) in this hearing, so being prepared is really important.
It is also an option to agree to temporary orders. Sometimes parties are able to agree on temporary orders by working with each other and/or their attorneys. In other cases, parties are able to agree on temporary orders after attending mediation. Since the goal of the court is to encourage settlement, most courts will require that the parties attend mediation prior to allowing the parties to have a hearing. Nonetheless, if the parties agree on temporary orders, the parties will sign the Temporary Orders and the Judge will review the orders and sign the temporary orders. Additionally, if you would like to keep costs down, avoiding a hearing may be an option worth considering.
Remember that your Temporary Orders usually become permanent. Beware of making a short term agreement that is unfavorable. You may never get out of it. You are better off putting your foot down and getting fair Temporary Orders.