Despite the fact that the vast majority of family law cases in Texas settle before the parties ever have to reach a contested hearing, there are still some instances where you may find yourself without an agreement and instead heading to the courthouse. This does not have to be a daunting task to take on but it can seem like it at times. Hopefully you will have an experienced family law attorney by your side (like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC) to make everything seem more manageable.
No matter who is representing you, if anyone, there are some tips and pieces of advice that our attorneys have collected of the years of representing clients just like you in temporary orders hearings for both divorce and child custody cases. Today we would like to share that information with you so that you can understand the sort of issues that you will be facing in court and how to best handle them to the betterment of your case. If you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail as the old saying goes. Getting ready well in advance of a hearing could mean the difference between a positive and negative result for you and your family. All of our advice centers around preparation.
Get ready early for your temporary orders hearing
There is no substitute for diligent preparation well in advance of the temporary orders hearing itself. While you should understand that it is unlikely that you will go to a temporary orders hearing, you and your attorney should prepare yourselves for that eventuality. Approaching mediation as if you are 100% sure to settle your case is foolhardy. Get yourself ready for mediation but plan for a quick turn around for a temporary orders hearing. Fortunately preparing for mediation will help you prepare your case for a temporary orders hearing. However, working with your attorney to collect evidence is essential because he or she will need to get the evidence ready to be admitted into the record for a judge to consider it.
Hopefully your attorney will have asked you detailed questions about you and your family from the outset of your relationship with him or her. What are your goals for your case? What issues may come up in a hearing that your attorney should know about? Keep in mind that even the embarrassing issues that you never wanted to share with anyone should be disclosed to your attorney. The worst thing that can happen is for your lawyer to be blind sided by a sticky issue either immediately before or during a temporary orders hearing.
Prepare with your attorney- even if it means disclosing unsavory information
I was in a position not too long ago that should hammer this lesson home. A client and I were chatting prior to a temporary orders hearing when the opposing attorney came up to us and asked to speak with me. The attorney let me know that my client’s uncle (who was living with him) was a registered sex offender with a history of abusing children, in particular. As this temporary orders hearing revolved around which parent would have the right to determine the primary residence of the child this was particularly important information. This other attorney had some dignity about him as he shared the information with me prior to the hearing rather than during the hearing itself.
When I spoke to my client about this information he confirmed that it was true. Despite our office always asking clients to disclose information that could be potentially harmful to his case this client told me that he never thought it was relevant to discuss. I let him know that, unfortunately, it was very much relevant to his case and would likely result in him losing this hearing in a major way. We were able to settle the case for but not without some huge concessions made by our client. The reason for those concessions was that the opposing party temporary orders knew that she had our client in a difficult position. Had he shared this information with our office we may have been able to help him mitigate the problem by, for example, recommending that our client ask his uncle to move out of the home for the betterment of his niece and nephew. We knew nothing about the situation prior to the hearing, however, and therefore we were not able to take any kind of action that ensure that this occurred.
Prepare with your attorney to act as a witness in your hearing
Have you ever answered a question from an attorney before? Have you ever been to court before? Have you ever met a judge in your life? Odds are the answer to those questions is “no” for most of you reading this blog post. This isn’t a bad thing, either, this is a just reality that for most of us we don’t have a ton of contact with the legal system if we are raising a family, working jobs and generally keeping our noses clean.
I can tell you that while you may feel comfortable speaking to your attorney and answering his or her questions, the situation will likely change once you get into a courtroom. It is an unfamiliar environment with people listening and watching how you act. Among those people is an opposing attorney whose job it is to refute your statements and assertions while damaging your credibility as a witness. The anxiety level in a temporary orders hearing is much greater than in your lawyer’s office.
How can you offset the anxiety surrounding a temporary orders hearing when it comes to answering questions? Your lawyer and you should meet in person to go over the questions that you will be asked in your direct examination. This way you can anticipate the sort of information that you will be asked to give. Second, your attorney can prepare you to be cross examined by the opposing attorney. Attorneys are good at making you second guess the things you say and generally making you look less than sure of yourself when you testify. If an opposing attorney were to come at you hard and heavy with questions about certain subjects how would you react? If you prepare in advance of the hearing with your attorney you will find out the answer to that question.
Spend some time preparing your Financial Information Sheet prior to the hearing
If you are involved in a divorce you will be responsible for turning in a Financial Information Sheet prior to your hearing. This form will allow the judge to get a fairly in depth picture of what your finances look like and what your spouse’s finances look like. From that picture the judge can decide how much child support should be paid, if spousal support is justified on a temporary basis and who should be paying certain bills of the household. Suffice it to say that this is a very important document.
Either your attorney or the paralegal working on your case will sit down with you in a meeting and go over this form in detail. Bring financial papers that can help you to fill it out accurately. If there are major discrepancies between your form and your spouse’s the judge will likely ask for evidence that supports your argument. Be prepared to bring this to court with you on the day of your temporary orders hearing.
Questions about temporary orders hearings? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions about temporary orders hearings in either a child custody case or divorce please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We excel in representing clients in your situation and have done so for many years here in southeast Texas. Our office can offer you not only experienced attorneys, but attorneys and staff that value the relationship we share with our clients. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days per week. We would be honored to speak to you about your case and to talk with you about the services that we can offer you and your family.