Temporary Issues in Florida Family Law
When couples separate in the state of Florida, important issues are often resolved (at least temporarily) in a short hearing before a judge. Even though these quick hearings are less formal than other common court hearings, their brevity means that you must be prepared and know exactly what your goals are. You may have as little as just a few minutes to ask for what you want.
What Temporary Orders Are For
As an example, if a couple is getting divorced and the husband moves out, the wife who's left behind needs money to feed and shelter the children. Realizing that her children would starve long before a full trial could be held, she may be desperate for help. She can go to court to request a temporary order from a judge, even though a formal divorce action has not yet been filed. Her request will be put on a fast track and a hearing will be scheduled very quickly; often within a few days or weeks.
Spouses can ask a court to temporarily:
- restrain a spouse from coming near or contacting the other (or force a spouse to move out of the family home)
- establish child custody and visiting arrangements
- provide for spousal support (alimony) and/or child support payments
- order either spouse not to sell valuable assets, and
- give possession of the family home or car to one of the spouses.
Temporary orders are usually valid until the court holds another hearing or the spouses arrive at their own settlement through negotiation or mediation.
When to Ask for a Temporary Order
When one divorcing spouse moves out of the house, you have two options: reach an agreement about how you'll share expenses and about child custody and support, or go to court and ask a judge to decide this for you. If you and your spouse are able to agree without legal involvement, you can write up a temporary agreement and go on to try to resolve the rest of the issues in your divorce. If you and your spouse can't agree, one of you should go to court right away to quickly resolve any critical issues, such as spousal support. If the children will be staying with you, you should immediately file for custody and child support.
This accomplishes two things. First, you will be awarded the proper amount of child support and the court will acknowledge that you live with the children -- often granting you physical custody right off the bat. Second, your spouse cannot successfully claim that the children were kidnapped. This may sound extreme and unlike your future ex-spouse, but some people behave uncharacteristically when they are under duress and feeling threatened.
What to Expect at a Temporary Issues Hearing
Your next step is to attend the court hearing where the judge will hear and consider your requests. In emergencies, the hearing can be held within a few days, but more often, it will be a few weeks.
The hearing may be held in a courtroom or just in the judge's office or "chambers". The judge may listen to a few minutes of testimony from you, your spouse, and possibly other witnesses. It is also possible that in some cases the judge may only accept written evidence. In an effort to support a request for temporary child support, you will probably need to produce copies of an income and expense budget.
Using the testimony and evidence provided, the judge will:
- review the details of the requests and the underlying facts
- possibly ask you some questions
- ask your spouse, if present, for his or her side of the story, and
- in child support cases, refer to state guidelines on recommended support, looking at factors such as each spouse's income and who has primary custody of the child(ren).
Often, these types of hearings will last less than 20 minutes. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will likely make an immediate ruling, usually either issuing the temporary order you requested or modifying it to better fit state guidelines for consistency. The order will stay in effect only until the divorce is finally settled, either through a trial or when you and your spouse reach an agreement.
However, if the judge finds more information is needed, or finds that your spouse wasn't given the proper notice before the hearing, the judge may issue an order that is effective only until another hearing can be held.