Family court is a court which is designed to handle disputes that arise involving family issues, such as child custody or divorce. One of the main goals for family court is to settle legal issues which occur involving families.

How family courts operate vary state by state. Because of this, it may be helpful for an individual to research the local family court in their area to learn more about how it functions.

What Types of Services are Available at Family Court?

Every state family court has services which are available for individuals who are dealing with family law issues. These issues may be emotional and cause great stress for a family.

Services that may be available in family court includes:

A court clerk can be a useful resource to learn more about the court records as well as how they are maintained. A clerk can provide guidance regarding daily court calendars and schedules.

Self-help centers provide resources for individuals who are representing themselves. These centers assist individuals with:

  • Education materials;
  • Training on court procedures; and
  • Completing legal forms.

It is important to note that self-help centers do not provide legal advice. The purpose of these services is to increase access to the family law legal system for the community.

Medication services can ease the process for parents who are attempting to resolve child custody and visitation issues. Individuals will be provided with the option to meet with a mediator, or unbiased third party, to formulate an agreement that is private and confidential.

Domestic violence protection offices are located throughout the United States. These centers provide information and awareness for community safety in situations involving domestic violence issues and can assist with the filing of applications for protection orders to ensure the safety of the individuals in a timely manner.

Court interpreters can assist with the language barriers that can be an issue when trying to deal with family law matters. A family court may arrange for an interpreter for non-English speakers.
Each state has its own guidelines on the timeline to apply for and to receive the assistance of a court interpreter. It is important to note that not every court will provide all of the services discussed above.

The majority of courts have:

  • Court interpreters;
  • Self-help centers; and
  • Court clerks.

However, not all courts can offer direct assistance with domestic violence protection orders or mediation services. These services may be located in a different location.

What are Temporary Orders in Family Court?

When a couple divorces, there are numerous family-related issues which are required to be decided by a court while the case is pending. In some cases, a family court decision may take months or even years to make a formal decision.

Some of the issues, however, cannot be on hold for that long of a period of time as families often want to make changes. Temporary order can be used in a family law case in order to have a temporary effect on certain issues until a final family court decision may be made in a formal divorce hearing.

If a couple desires a quick decision from a court regarding who will receive the home, vehicle, or custody of the children and that decision needs to be made quickly, a temporary order will serve that purpose.

What Can Temporary Orders be Used for?

A temporary order in a family law case can be used to make important temporary decisions on the following issues:

When Should I Request a Temporary Orders?

A couple should request a temporary order when they need to make an important decision regarding a family matter and they have not been able to come to an agreement outside of the courtroom. When a couple is divorcing, they have two options when they separate, including:

  • Coming to an agreement regarding how the parties will:
    • share expenses;
    • divide property; or
    • decide on child custody or support; or
  • Go to the court and have the judge make the decision.

If the couple is able to come to an agreement outside of court on family issues, for example, in mediation, they can draft a temporary agreement and resolve the remainder of the divorce in family court. If the divorcing couple cannot agree outside of the courtroom through an agreement and they need to reach a decision on the matter quickly for a temporary duration while the court makes a formal decision, the couple can request a temporary order.

How Do I Request a Temporary Order?

Each state has different procedures for obtaining a temporary order. In some jurisdictions, there are special documents and forms which must be submitted.

An individual can request a temporary order by filing the following documents:

  • An Application for Order to Show Cause (OSC) and an Order to Show Cause: This form is a legal document that an individual can fill out that sets out what they are asking the court to do such as requesting temporary child support or possession of the family car or house;
  • A Supporting Declaration: This is a written statement that is signed under penalty of perjury that sets out legal facts of why the individual needs the Order to Show Cause in the individuals favor;
  • Temporary Order Granting the Relief Requested: Once filed with the court for judges review, the order if granted will be signed by the family court judge; and
  • Proof of Service: After the individual files their request, they are required to serve copies of the request on the other parent and file a proof of service with the court.

When the individual files their request, the court will set the matter for the hearing. If an individual is requesting a temporary child custody order, the court may also order the individual and the other parent to attend mediation.

At the hearing on the request, the court will determine whether or not to grant the request. In some jurisdictions, an individual cannot file papers that request a short hearing unless a divorce has already been filed.

What if I Cannot Wait until the Hearing?

In an emergency situation, an individual may not be able to wait until their hearing. Although these situations are rare, examples may include:

  • The other parent has abducted the children;
  • The children are being exposed to or are victims of domestic violence by the other parent; and
  • The individual needs support to pay their necessary living expenses.

If an individual needs a court to make an immediate decision, or issue an immediate order, they can request a temporary emergency order, which may be referred to as an ex parte order. The court typically makes a decision on a temporary emergency order within 48 hours of the request.

Depending on the rules of the jurisdiction and the individual’s request, the request may be decided with or without a hearing as well as with or without notice to the other parent.

Should I Seek an Attorney?

Although a temporary order is not final, it should not be underestimated because these types of orders often play an important role in shaping the final order. It may be helpful to consult with a family law attorney who can help you obtain your objectives at each stage of your family law case as well as assist you in obtaining a temporary order in your family law case.