Throughout your family law matter, there are many different types of hearings you may encounter. The process of modifying child custody or going through a dissolution can come in all flavors and lengths and levels of difficulty. It is best to understand the different types of hearings, when each hearing can be beneficial to your matter, and what is generally accomplished at each one. The most common hearings one will come across in the Family Court system are: 1. Ex Parte; 2. Request for Order; 3. Evidentiary Hearing. We will go through each type, the length of each hearing, the evidence that can be produced, and what can generally be accomplished through each.

Ex Parte:

Ex Parte, or an emergency hearing, are used to obtain emergency orders or often used for procedural/scheduling issues. An Ex Parte is an extremely quick hearing, often lasting approximately five (5) minutes. Generally, you would want to make your lengthier argument via your pleadings, or written documents, to get your point across to the Judge prior to the hearing. Notice is given to the opposing party the day beforehand and is utilized for very specific emergency situations.  California Rule of Court 5.151b states that the purpose of a request for emergency orders is to address matters that cannot be heard on the Court’s regular hearing calendar. This process is used to make orders to help prevent an immediate danger or irreparable harm to a party or to the children involved in this matter; make orders to help prevent immediate loss or damage to property subject to disposition; or to make orders about procedural matters like scheduling. Because of the fast-paced turnaround time for a Court hearing and necessary requisite emergency, there is generally not a whole lot of evidence that can be submitted to use as these hearings should be focused on only one emergency issue. They are not a great tool when a multitude of documents, exhibits, photographs, etc. need to be used, but only come in handy when there is a true emergency. Overall, Ex Parte is a fantastic tool in the event of a true emergency and are a great way to get in front of the Court at a quicker rate, however, they are not a hearing where you will have time to present a long oral argument or voluminous evidence.

Request for Order:

You will often hear the term “RFO” which stands for Request for Order, there are the standard family law motions and the most frequent hearings you will attend throughout your family law case. A Request for Order hearing is set in due course and usually is about 3 – 6 months from the filing date till you appear in Court. However, this is a great time for a concise, but more detailed oral argument than that of an Ex Parte. With the lengthy time in between your filing and the actual hearing, you will have the ability to prepare more evidence and submit that for both review of the Court and utilization during the hearing. The general RFO length is about 20 – 40 minutes in front of a Judge, where you will split the time equally between yourself and the Opposing Party. These hearings are usually on one singular issue, but can have a few issues before the Court, depending on the complexity of each issue. The most frequently filed RFO’s are usually on child custody, support issues like spousal support or child support, or attorney fees and costs. A RFO is utilized to essentially piece out all the issues of your case until all have been resolved and a Judgment can be drafted, but gives each side enough time to prepare, argue, and make a comprehensive case for that particular issue. However, where you want to take live testimony, have witnesses, or an extensive list of evidence, you will want to request an Evidentiary Hearing.

Evidentiary Hearing:

An Evidentiary Hearing is an actual trial. I often tell my client’s these are the types of Court cases you see on TV. In Family Court, they are set in half-day increments and go up to several days. These are utilized most importantly when you want to call witnesses and take their testimony to assist your side in winning the case. In participating in an Evidentiary Hearing, your attorney will have to prepare your Trial Brief – which is an extensive document that lays out the facts of the matter, the procedural history, and the argument beforehand for the Court’s review, an Exhibit List – which is a document that states and provides all evidence in your matter, and a Witness List – which is a document that states who you plan to call as a witness and what specifically they will testify too. If there is a voluminous amount of evidence that needs to be presented to argue your side/case, an Evidentiary Hearing will likely need to be requested so that your attorney can thoroughly go through each document with the Court. Even times where these is not a lot of documented evidence, if it is all oral testimony from witnesses, you will likely need to request an Evidentiary Hearing because there just simply is not enough time in an RFO to take live testimony during the Court’s already impacted calendar. Overall, if your case is more detailed and extensive than what the Court can consider in 20-40 minutes, it is important for you to request an evidentiary hearing and prepare for a trial.

Overall, it is best to consult with your attorney on which type of hearing you feel is appropriate for your matter and weigh the pros and cons of an RFO or an Evidentiary hearing and remember those Ex Parte hearings, if necessary.