In family law cases, one of the most common pre-trial motions filed is a motion to set a temporary parenting schedule and for temporary support. This motion is often necessary if the parties have already separated and cannot agree on a temporary parenting schedule for their minor children or the amount of support to be paid by one party to the other. On any given domestic motion day, you will likely see several of these types of motions on the docket. This can often be the most important motion litigated in a divorce case prior to trial. Therefore, it is important that this type of motion be prepared thoroughly, both for the court and for the benefit of your client.
Many jurisdictions have set forth local rules specifically related to motions for temporary parenting and support. The local rules may require that certain documents be filed along with the motion. For example, in Williamson County the local rules require that a temporary parenting plan and sworn income and expense statement be filed along with the motion. Often, the local rules will provide examples of these documents. Many jurisdictions also require that a response be filed by a certain date or the motion will be granted without a hearing.
Due to the volume of cases heard on motion days and the importance of the motion to your client, it is best to be thorough when preparing your documents for filing. Many judges review motions and supporting documents prior to the motion day. By filing succinct, yet thorough documents with your motion, you can give the judge a clear picture of the issues to be litigated prior to the hearing. This should reduce the time necessary for the hearing and help the judge move through the docket more efficiently.
A well-prepared income and expense statement will also benefit your client. Many jurisdictions require that the income and expense statement be sworn to. Therefore, it is extremely important that the document be thorough and accurate. If your client understates his or her income or overstates his or her expenses, it can raise serious questions regarding their credibility in future proceedings. It is wise to review your client’s paystubs, mortgage statements, utility bills, etc. when preparing their income and expense statement. It would also be prudent to bring copies of those items to court in the event the accuracy of the statement is questioned. For variable expenses, such as gas, groceries and utilities, you should take the time to review your client’s bank statements for the past year, if possible, so you can provide an accurate monthly average.
Finally, always prepare your client for this type of motion. Nothing can derail a wellpled and well-prepared motion than an unprepared client. Take the time to review the documents with your client. Prepare your client to answer questions about the most significant aspects of the motion. Our courts have limited time to hear temporary motions. I have often heard judges tell litigants and attorneys that they do not have time to litigate the entire divorce case on a motion day. Therefore, you must be able to identify and prove the most important issues relevant to your motion. You should prepare your client by reviewing your questions with them prior to the hearing. You should also cross-examine your client with questions you anticipate will be coming from opposing counsel. Not only will this prepare your client for the hearing, it will help you identify potential issues that may come up during the hearing. Joshua L. Rogers