Every family law case is unique. If this is your first time entering into a legal experience involving your children, the things affecting your case will be specific to you. However, there are a few common effects you can expect in every case pertaining to family law and child custody. If you are heading into your first family law experience, here are a few things you can expect.
What to Expect in the Family Court Process
Hearings are scheduled throughout the day and often during the same time slot, so you can expect to be in a semi-public space during yours. Initial hearings are often very short, with the least complex cases going first. This is done to use time efficiently, but can be frustrating if you don’t know to expect it and show up to your hearing assuming you’ll be heard immediately.
There are certain legal proceedings that need to take place before a judge makes a decision, and substantive decisions are usually only made after a trial or a motion hearing. In a family law case, several hearings can take place before you go to trial, and only a fraction of family law cases end up going to trial in the end. Understanding this can help you maintain realistic expectations, knowing that you will likely not get a final resolution after the first hearing.
The first hearing in a family law case can be a Motion for Temporary Orders. This is a formal hearing where either party seeks to obtain temporary orders pending final resolution or trial. Typically, these orders are necessary to provide the parties some guidance on what to do or how to act, again, pending final resolution or trial. For example, the parties can obtain a temporary Parenting Plan or Child Support Order at this hearing.
If there has not been a Motion for Temporary Orders, the first court date is an Assignment to Set Trial Date, which calendars the trial and due dates for the duration of the matter. Often, clients are not required to attend this hearing unless informed otherwise.
What to Expect from Your Family Attorney
When you have engaged an attorney to represent you in a family law case, you can expect to receive expert guidance, consistent communication, and the assurance that they will work in your best interest. Your attorney is your advocate and a wealth of knowledge when you have questions pertaining to your case. They will communicate with you directly when new information or needs arise. It’s important to understand, though, that a period of silence from them is not necessarily a bad thing. Lawyers charge per hour, so they will only reach out to you when it is necessary and when your participation will support their efforts.
What to Expect from a Judge
While every family law case is unique, there are a few general things you can expect from your judge as they hear your case and move toward a decision. Family law judges do their best to keep consistency and stability in the children’s lives, as long as that is in the kids’ best interest. Stability refers to the children’s residence, who they live with, routines, and day-to-day activities. When ruling on a parenting plan, judges like to keep these agreements simple while limiting conflict and micromanagement.
Judges will often promote frequent and regular contact with both parents, as long as there are no extenuating circumstances that make one parent a risk for a child to be with. Family law judges work to ensure that siblings can stay together. Judges prefer joint legal custody, again with exceptions given when a child might be exposed to physical danger or trauma as a result of being alone with one parent.
What to Expect During Covid-19
While mandates and best practices for Covid-19 continue to evolve, the Pierce County Superior Court website is updated regularly with guidelines and information that help individuals and families safely access essential services. Masking and social distancing is still being upheld, so for the time being you can expect to mask up for in-person hearings. Check the court website frequently to see when those guidelines will change.
Our attorneys at Torrone are experts in family law. Contact us for a free consultation to find out more about how we can best serve your family. We can walk you through what to expect for your specific situation, and fight for you and your family to have the best possible resolution for your case.