One of the sub-processes that is typical in a divorce or Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) is a hearing to establish temporary orders. Temporary orders are common in family law cases because there are usually significant changes for the parties and children during the pendency of the proceedings. One of the most crucial changes experienced in many family law cases is the change in living arrangement for the parties because when one party moves out of the family residence it effects the home environment as well as the finances and custody of the children.
Obviously we would hope the adults in a lawsuit would act like grown-ups and work together to protect the family’s assets and make sure the children’s needs are taken care of first and foremost. However, most of the time the parties simply cannot work together so temporary orders are required to keep things civil. Generally temporary orders will assign the residence to one party, and generally that party will also be the primary parent for custody purposes. The other parent is usually assigned child support and a visitation schedule with the kids. Numerous other facets of daily life are also assigned by temporary order such as who pays the mortgage or rent, who pays the utilities, who is responsible for the note on the cars, who can access the bank accounts, and more.
The danger to a parent is in underestimating the importance of temporary orders for possession and access of the kids. Texas courts like to minimize the impact of grown-up proceedings on children. In fact, the best interest of the children (BIC) is the primary concern of the courts. Consequently, the courts make some presumptions when issuing temporary orders that can have long term effects on parents and children.
For example, say a mom moves out of the house to live with her new love interest. The court awards dad primary conservatorship of the children on temporary orders with mom having standard visitation on first, third and fifth weekends each month and every Thursday evening. Mom thinks this is less than ideal, but these are just temporary orders. At final trial, the court will fix this schedule to make it more fair right?
Wrong. As the case progresses toward a final disposition over the course of weeks or months, the court presumes that the living arrangement and visitation plan for the kids is working well. Absent evidence to the contrary, the court presumes keeping things stable for the kids is in their best interest. The court will presume the BIC is to not change their schedule. So when mom got temporary orders limiting her visitation with the kids, those orders were not temporary at all in actuality.
It is fair to say a case develops its own inertia. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and once the case or a sub-process in the case is moving one way, the courts don’t like to change it. Consequently, it is crucial that the importance of temporary orders not be underestimated. Getting the plan for possession and access of the kids is especially important because once the inertia is established, it is very hard to overcome later.
As always, this essay is meant for educational purposes only, and it is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. If you or a loved one are facing a family lawsuit, we encourage you to seek an attorney who can help you with your case. At Youngblood Law, PLLC, we understand that a possession and access battle can be won or lost just a few days into a lawsuit that could take months to complete if temporary orders are not taken seriously. Because “temporary orders” can turn out to be not-so-temporary, it’s important to treat the temporary orders hearing with the intensity of a final trial when it comes to the kids.
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