What to Expect at an Ex Parte Child Custody Hearing

Jun 11, 2020

When you’re going through a divorce, you may have to deal with an ex parte child custody hearing. The term ex parte means “for one party,” and it can refer to an order, a motion or a hearing that a judge grants at the request of only one party to your divorce.

What to Expect at an Ex Parte Child Custody Hearing

Sometimes in divorce cases, judges hold ex parte child custody hearings. These hearings are usually only used when immediate action is necessary and when there’s no time to notify the other party. Typically, these types of hearings are only held under extreme circumstances.

So what can you expect at an ex parte child custody hearing in California?

Here’s what you need to know.

Arguments, No Arguments, and Possible Settlements: How Ex Parte Child Custody Hearings Can Go

The experience at an ex parte child custody hearing varies greatly from county to county in California, and even from courtroom to courtroom in the same county. The courts’ approaches fall generally into two formats of how to handle an ex parte emergency child custody matter: with or without arguments.

In the first scenario, the court will review the pleadings, listen to argument and make a ruling.

In the second, the court will simply review the pleadings and make a ruling. 

For many people, it’s very important to work with a Beverly Hills divorce attorney who understands local practices – and the practices that vary by courtroom. Provinziano & Associates handles matters in several major Southern California counties (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and others). We’re very familiar with the local practices of each jurisdiction. We understand that being prepared for an ex parte hearing is half the battle.

Ex Parte Hearings With Review of Pleadings and Argument

Some courts will review the legal paperwork – called pleadings – but then want to hear arguments from the parties. I find that this is inconsistently applied across the board. In many cases, it might be done because the court wants some clarification from the moving party or wants to hear from the other parent for an explanation. Whatever the case, the argument on the record will make an impact on the ultimate ruling of the court.

Ex Parte Hearings With Review of Pleadings Only

Many courts will take an approach that they must assume everything in the declaration of the moving party is true and make a ruling based solely on the moving papers. In this case, the litigants submit the paperwork (called pleadings) on the day of the hearing (in Los Angeles and Orange counties, for example) or several days before the hearing (in some Inland Empire counties, such as San Bernardino). When the parties show up to the hearing, the court will have reviewed the paperwork that morning or in advance. In this case, the court will often have a ruling on the emergency child custody order when the parties arrive or shortly thereafter.

Settlement While Waiting for the Outcome of an Ex Parte Hearing

Parties have an opportunity to hammer out a deal while waiting for the court’s ruling. This can often be accomplished by the parties meeting and conferring with the assistance of their attorneys. While you can’t expect a resolution of all issues, for many families this is a better option than submitting the issue to the court and taking the risk of not obtaining the orders needed to resolve the emergency. In practice, in true cases of emergencies (such as a child abduction), the parent committing the alleged abduction often does not show up, so there is no chance of settlement In that instance, the only option is moving forward to get the necessary orders to get a return of the child on an ex parte emergency basis.

Related: What to expect at an ex parte child custody hearing

What Happens After an Ex Parte Hearing?

The judge will issue his or her ruling in writing. Usually, it’s recorded on what is currently the California Judicial Council Form entitled “Temporary Orders.” If you have an ex parte emergency child custody order, it will outline specific details on child custody, and it might also include attachments directing the opposing party or parent to post a child abduction bond, require the district attorney’s assistance to help the parent seeking to recover his or her child, or require the other parent to have visitation only with a paid supervisor. These are just a few examples, though. There may be other attachments, as well.

If the court grants an emergency child custody order or an order shortening time, the parties will most often be referred to child custody mediation.  This is required by California Family Code section 3190. The parties will often attend mediation, and the next step will be to return to court for the return hearing. At this hearing, both parents will have an opportunity to tell their side of the story and the court will make a ruling on this subsequent court date as well.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Ex Parte Child Custody Orders? 

At Provinziano & Associates, we guide our clients step by step through the ex parte process. We help them understand what to expect at the hearing and how that particular courtroom will handle their request. Armed with this knowledge, a parent in an ex parte child custody battle can be prepared and know what to expect when they walk into the courtroom.

Call us at 310-820-3500 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with a caring, compassionate and knowledgeable family law attorney. We may be able to help you.