Charleston divorce lawyers know that there are many difficult and important decisions clients need to make before a marriage ends in a divorce. For example, there may be property to divide, debts to split, concerns about alimony, and questions about child custody and visitation. Unfortunately, most divorcing couples to not see eye-to-eye on these decisions especially when they first separate. For these reasons, either spouse make seek “temporary relief” from South Carolina’s family courts while the divorce lawsuit is ongoing.
Temporary Hearing in Family Court
Before granting “temporary relief” to either spouse, the family court conducts a hearing that is referred to as a “temporary hearing” after which the court issues a “temporary order.” At a temporary hearing, the family court is not trying to decide who is right or wrong or who wins or losses. Instead, the family court’s primary goal is to maintain the status quo between the parties during the divorce case. For example, the court will decide who lives in the home and who pays for the home. The court will decide who is financially responsible for utilities, health insurance, monthly credit cards bills, car insurance, and many other financial issues. Also, the court will may grant a spouse temporary support so they can maintain his or her standard of living during the divorce. If there are minor children involved, then the court will determine where the children will live (physical custody), who will make major decisions for the children (legal custody), who will pay child support in what amount, and the visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. The court will restrain the parties from behaving poorly around the children by talking about the divorce, exposing the children to girlfriends/boyfriends, drinking around the children, and so on. Also, the court will restrain the parties from behaving poorly toward each other such as harassing each other at work or at home, hiding or disposing of assets, incurring new debts in each other’s names, and other matters.
What Happens at a Temporary Hearing
Temporary hearings are usually scheduled quickly, and the spouse who requests a hearing only has to give the other spouse 5 days notice of the hearing date. Temporary hearings are very brief, and the parties are limited in what they can present to the family court. Temporary hearings usually last less than thirty minutes and there is no live testimony by the parties or any of their witnesses. Instead, the parties submit affidavits to the court (notarized written statements) along with their financial declarations (a family court form that details each parties’ monthly income, monthly expenses, and other finances). In some South Carolina counties, the family court limits the parties’ affidavits to 8 pages or less. Additionally, the parties are only given a very brief opportunity (oftentimes 5 minutes) to explain to the court what relief they seek. Sometimes the family court judge makes his or her ruling during the hearing itself, but more often the court makes its ruling within a few days afterward. This ruling becomes a “temporary order” that governs the parties’ legal rights and responsibilities while the parties litigate and until the family court issues a “final order” after considering all the evidence and testimony in the case. Unfortunately, the litigation process can take a long time. So, a “temporary order” granting “temporary relief” can have a long-term impact on the parties’ lives until their final day in court.