Individuals often file family law motions to ask the courts to decide on issues of child support, custody, asset division, debt payment, and other matters. You may need a family law motion to address any issue you and a spouse/former spouse cannot resolve through other means or to change an existing order. Handling a family law motion can be a complex process. Whether you file a notice on your own or with help from an attorney, time limits and the information on the forms will affect the outcome of your motion.
Getting Ready to File the Motion
In family law, the person filing the motion is called the moving party and the parent or spouse in opposition is called the opposing party. You can fill out the paperwork you need to file a motion on your own or with help from an attorney. Depending on the motion you wish to file, you may need to use different forms. Look up your county court for information on filing your motion, deadlines, and where to go for help.
Local courthouse facilitators can help you identify the right paperwork and look over the forms before you file them. These facilitators cannot, however, offer legal advice on how you should phrase your argument, the information you should include, or other legal aspects of the filing. Remember to mark deadlines on your calendar and to schedule your notification to the opposing party well ahead of the hearing date. Exactly follow all guidelines on the forms and in your local court rules to protect your ability to pursue the motion.
Make Copies of All Notices, Affidavits, and Other Paperwork
Make several copies of every document you file with your motion. File one copy with the county clerk, keep one for yourself, make one for the opposing party, and keep at least one extra copy on hand. You may need to file a working copy of the motion for the judge to use at the hearing. Ask the clerk to stamp all copies of the motion. The clerk may also help you identify the correct address for the working copy and answer any other filing questions you ask.
If you get through the paperwork and filing process, focus on the deadlines you need to meet to keep the process in motion. Family courts strictly enforce all deadlines. On the day that you file your motion, ask the courthouse facilitator how you can schedule and confirm the hearing date. You may need to confirm the hearing online or via direct communication, depending on the county. If you do not confirm the hearing date, the court will not keep it on the schedule. You will have to start the scheduling process over again.
Other deadlines you should pay close attention to include the notification deadline, opposition response deadlines, and strict replies (a reply to the opposing party’s response). The rules you receive from your local courthouse will explicitly state all deadlines you need to keep.
For some motions, the judge will hand down a decision without a formal hearing. He or she will evaluate the written information and make a temporary or final order that both parties must follow. In other cases, the written motion will precede a motion hearing. At a motion hearing, both parties have an opportunity to voice their arguments in front of a judge. The judge may ask the parties questions to better understand the situation. When the hearing concludes, the judge will hand out a new or revised order.
If the judge offers a temporary order, the parties may need to return to court for a more formal trial. A final order generally concludes the issue, unless one of the parties files a motion for reconsideration.
With preparation and an understanding of state laws, you may successfully obtain a legal order that protects you or your children. If you feel you need additional help/support with the process, consider speaking with a divorce attorney who can file the motion and represent you in court.