The California family law litigation process usually involves several steps, including gathering evidence in discovery, pre-trial motions or “Requests for Orders,” settlement proposals and counter-proposals, and (possibly) a final trial.
What are Requests for Orders?
Most family law cases do not go to trial. However, most family law matters require hearings where one or more issues are heard and decided by the judge. In California family courts, pre-trial motions are called Requests for Orders. When the parties cannot agree on one or more issues, either party may file a Request for Orders to ask the court to hold a hearing and make new orders or to change existing orders that were already made in the case.
Requests for Orders can be regarding the following issues:
- Child Custody and Visitation
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- Attorney's Fees and Costs
- Other Issues
Difference Between Family Law Hearings and Trials
The main difference between a hearing and trial is that a hearing results in a court order, and a trial results in a final ruling or judgment. This generally means that orders after hearing are only temporary and will remain in effect until the parties submit their final judgment (in the case of agreement), or until the parties go to trial and the court makes a final ruling (if no agreement is reached).
The hearing on a Request for Orders is similar to a trial in that both parties are able to present evidence and call witnesses. However, if a Request for Order hearing requires several witnesses or will otherwise take more than an hour or two to complete, the court may set the matter for trial.
Oftentimes, even in highly contested cases, the parties will agree to incorporate prior orders into their final judgment, in which case they do not need to go to trial on that issue. This makes sense if, for instance, circumstances have not changed since the court made the orders, so the trial judge would likely make the same ruling.
When is Trial Necessary?
If, after one or several hearings, the parties are able to agree on the orders that should be incorporated into the judgment, their attorneys will prepare the judgment and submit it to the court without a trial. If, however, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they will have to go to trial on the contested issues. Also, the court may set a matter for trial if a hearing would require lengthy witness examinations or would otherwise take longer than about an hour complete.
Contact Our Los Angeles Family Law Litigation Attorney
If you engage MacKay & Martin, LLP, our legal team will begin preparing your case for trial from the outset. Our legal team is mindful of preserving our clients' financial resources and delicate family ties and, therefore, strives to favorably settle issues and cases when possible. But if trial is the only option, our family law attorneys are skilled and formidable courtroom opponents, with a stellar record of wins in the courtroom.