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What You Need to Know About Preliminary Hearings in Divorce Cases

What You Need to Know About Preliminary Hearings in Divorce Cases

While most preliminary hearings address all issues of property (assets and liabilities) and all custody issues (such as temporary legal and physical custody and parenting time), the parties may seek a temporary decision on fewer than all of the issues if they are generally able to work together to address other issues. This reduces legal fees and general acrimony between the parties and often leads to settlements versus contested divorce trials. Thus, preliminary hearings, as with most aspects of divorce cases, can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the parties.

Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle domestic cases of all types throughout the state. This blog on preliminary hearings in divorce matters is written to provide general information. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.

Preliminary Hearings and Their Orders Terminate with the Final Divorce Order.

A preliminary order is just a temporary order to sort out custody and property issues until a final hearing (or agreement) can be reached. In addition, preliminary hearings are typically short so the court sometimes does not get enough evidence to make an order that is as precise as it can be. For this reason, preliminary orders can be squared up at the final divorce hearing and order (such as if child support was slightly off in its amount) and all preliminary orders terminate when the Court enters into a final divorce order. Thus, it is important to know that preliminary hearings can be expensive, squared up later, and terminate with the divorce decree. A final hearing can thus correct any evidentiary shortfall in a preliminary order that stems from a lack of evidence. A party is not “stuck” with a preliminary order if later evidence supports a different order.

Without Prejudice to Any Given Party.

Perhaps the most important point to note about preliminary hearings is that the orders that come from preliminary hearings are without prejudice to any party. This means that if the court provides dad with temporary physical custody and mom with parenting time, the threshold best interest decision about custody may be modified later with developed evidence at a final hearing. So, while a party may not get as favorable of an order as is desired, the preliminary hearing and order are not considered prejudicial to the position you may believe the judge should determine to be meritorious in future litigation, such as the final hearing. They are simply quick hearings to just maintain the peace during the pendency of the divorce action.

Multiple Preliminary Hearings Are Possible.

Although uncommon, the provisions allowing for a preliminary hearing do not limit a litigant to just one preliminary hearing. The divorce court always has jurisdiction to ensure fairness between the parties and address emergency matters. For this reason, if a significant change has occurred, such as a parent who had temporary custody getting arrested, the divorce court could entertain a second (emergency) motion to modify the temporary custody order. Ultimately, the Divorce Act provides judges with a wide array of tools to ensure that there is fundamental fairness during a divorce proceeding and to meet the children’s best interests. Thus, if a second preliminary hearing is necessary, the court can grant such a request.

Preliminary Hearings Do Not Have to Address All Issues.

While most preliminary hearings address all issues of property (assets and liabilities) and all custody issues (such as temporary legal and physical custody and parenting time), the parties may seek a temporary decision on fewer than all of the issues if they are generally able to work together to address other issues. This reduces legal fees and general acrimony between the parties and often leads to settlements versus contested divorce trials. Thus, preliminary hearings, as with most aspects of divorce cases, can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the parties.

Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle domestic cases of all types throughout the state. This blog on preliminary hearings in divorce matters is written to provide general information. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.

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