In the family law practice, attorneys commonly encounter temporary orders hearings. These hearings put temporary orders in place for each party to follow until a final decree is entered. While each hearing will present different facts and situations, the following tips should always be utilized to effectively represent the client.
- Always Bring and Use a Picture of the Child, If a Child Exists
A picture of the child serves multiple purposes. First, the picture will remind the trial judge that a child subject of the suit exists. Second, since the child likely will not be at the hearing, a picture will give a face and a presence to the child for the judge. Finally, pictures of the child with the client are important so the judge sees the beneficial family interactions.
Pre-marking and labeling exhibits before the hearing will save time during the hearing. The last thing an attorney wants is to lose the flow of an effective cross or direct examination because an exhibit is incomplete. Pre-marking and labeling will also assist with the exhibit list. An exhibit list should be drafted and given to the court reporter before the hearing begins.
Exhibits should be organized by witness and then structured by topic or subject matter. For instance, many temporary orders hearings involve foundation questions, possession and visitation questions, and child support questions. Structuring the exhibits according to these topics will assist with locating the right documents during each stage of the hearing. If other witnesses have exhibits, structure those by topic too. This exhibit structure will assist with pre-marking and labeling, with admitting exhibits into evidence, and with record keeping in case some exhibits are not admitted.
- Bring Income Information for the Client
In a temporary orders hearing with children, the judge can assess temporary child support. Income information will assist with this determination, both in the amount ordered and in who pays. The practitioner may be required to provide this information before the hearing too, and it can be provided through tax returns, wage statements, and a financial information statement. Check the local rules of the court for required income information.
- Know the Local Rules on Time Limits
Some courts have specific time limits for temporary orders hearings. If a court limits each side to 20 minutes, the practitioner should not prepare six hours of materials for presentation. Judges can be very strict on this time limit.
- Prepare a Summary of Requested Relief
A summary of your client's requested relief helps the judge understand what your client wants at the end of the day, and it provides structure to the hearing. A client should review this document to ensure the goals for the temporary orders are clear. If the client forgets certain aspects of the requested relief in the hearing, the summary can also help to refresh his or her recollection.
Patrick A. Wright is a Board Certified Family Law attorney in Lewisville, Texas, where he practices law as the managing partner for The Wright Firm, L.L.P. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and South Texas College of Law. He also serves on the editorial board of the American Bar Association publication Law Practice Magazine and was recently elected to the Family Law Council of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas
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