There is much wisdom in the old saying that “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” particularly in family law cases because most judges prefer to uphold the status quo, even if things are less than perfect. For example, in divorce child custody disputes, the parent who currently has custody nearly always retains that status, absent earth-shaking evidence to the contrary.
So, good family law attorneys spend substantial amounts of time and energy preparing for a divorce temporary hearing, because there is so much at stake and once the judge makes decisions, they are difficult, although not impossible, to un-do.
Usually, judges hold interim hearings about fourteen days after the petition is filed, an amount of time which gives the responding spouse time to receive formal notice of the legal action. Filing spouses have a natural advantage because they have much more time to prepare their cases than responding spouses. Although judges often delay these hearings to give responding spouses more time to prepare, there is no guarantee.
As a result, the judge often makes important decision with almost no evidence, other than items that the parties present.
Evidence at Temporary Hearings
The “nine-tenths of the law” rule of thumb is already in full effect when the judge calls the case, because by that time, the children have probably been living with one parent and the other one is paying support. Before deciding to change this scenario, or to keep things the same, the judge wants to see evidence like:
- Witness Testimony: The parties may be biased, but that does not necessarily mean that their testimony is unreliable. THat being said, unrelated witnesses with nothing to gain, like teachers and clergy, often make the best temporary hearing witnesses.
- Financial Documents: A monthly budget spreadsheet, backed up by a few bills and checkstubs, often works well.
- School Records: This evidence is especially useful if, as is often the case, the parents have been separated for several months. Both grades and behavior are relevant.
An attorney can present this evidence in a compelling way, effectively challenge the other side’s evidence during cross-examination, and make effective legal arguments during closing statements.
What Happens Next
In addition to thorough discovery, most Arizona family law judges order a social study and mediation in contested cases.
A social study is often the best evidence in child custody cases, and most judges put a great deal of trust in its conclusions. So, it is vital to put one’s best foot forward in these situations and avoid excessive criticism of the other parent, because pettiness often leads to failed co-parenting in the minds of many judges.
Mediation can be formal or informal. Informal mediation may consist solely of phone calls and emails. In formal mediation, a trained mediator tries to facilitate settlement between the two sides.
Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney
In divorce cases, important decisions are often made in the first month of the case. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Tempe, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack. Convenient payment plans are available.