In an area of practice like family law, many of the issues are highly sensitive, making the experience very emotional and uncomfortable for the parties. Many new family law litigants wish to get through these issues as quickly as possible, and may demand that a court hear them out immediately. Most are shocked at the amount of time it takes for the parties to negotiate the issues, or for the courts to schedule hearings and make final orders.
There are, however, certain circumstances where a hearing may be scheduled immediately in order for the court to hear certain issues and make speedy orders. These are called ex parte hearings. At an ex parte hearing, emergency orders are granted by one party’s request and without formal notice to the other party or opportunity to be heard in opposition. Due to the fact that the other party is being deprived of full notice and a chance to be heard, the class of orders obtainable ex parte is very narrow. These orders are primarily limited to protective orders and often last for a very limited duration.
There are a few specific circumstances for which formal notice to the other party is not required and a 24-hour notice will be sufficient. The first of which can occur when the party applying for the ex parte hearing can show great or irreparable injury would result before the matter can be heard. This includes irreparable injury to the parties, their children or their property. Additionally, an ex parte order may also be granted regarding basic procedural requests. For example, if one party would like more time before a trial or hearing, or to shorten the time before the next hearing (an order shortening time.) There is, of course, nothing to prevent the opposing party from appearing at a hearing in which ex parte relief is sought. If the opposing party or their attorney does appear, they may be heard in opposition to the requests made.
Most situations do not rise to this level of emergency. This is why it is important to clearly articulate in a declaration to the court what the exact emergency is. Too many non-emergency ex parte requests will create a reputation for the litigant, and the court may not take a true emergency request as seriously. Examples of true emergencies almost always involve either child custody or domestic violence. For instance, if a child was going to be permanently removed from the state of California, or if the child was in some sort of physical danger, the court would intervene. Temporary restraining orders are frequently granted where one parent is planning to move out of the state or has threatened to kidnap the children. They are also granted where there is physical abuse in the household, and where one parent has physically attacked or threatened to attack, the child or the other party.
If you have questions as to whether an ex parte hearing is appropriate for your case, please contact an attorney at Cage & Miles, LLP.