Temporary, Emergency & Expedited Hearings In Family Court: What Are They?

Lawyer on court

Temporary hearings, emergency hearings, and expedited hearings in the family court allow the parties to resolve pressing issues that just can’t wait for the trial or final divorce hearing to be scheduled.

But what is the difference between temporary hearings, emergency hearings, and expedited hearings? Temporary hearings are common, expedited hearings are less common but are often necessary, and emergency hearings are reserved for true emergencies.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The different types of hearings in SC family court,
  • When you need a temporary hearing and what it is,
  • When you need an expedited hearing and what the requirements are, and
  • What justifies an emergency hearing in SC.

Introduction to Family Court Hearings: Temporary, Emergency, and Expedited Hearings

The family court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear domestic matters in SC – if you have an emergency or a matter that must be heard quickly, you can’t just go to a different court.

Issues that must be decided in the family court include:

  • Divorce,
  • Alimony,
  • Child custody and visitation,
  • Child support,
  • The division of marital property, and
  • Adoptions.

Because these issues often cannot wait for a final divorce hearing, your attorney can schedule what is called a “temporary hearing” to resolve disputes like who will pay how much alimony or child support, which parent will have custody of the children and when the other parent can have visitation, or who stays in the family home while a divorce action is pending.

In some situations, however, the temporary hearing is not scheduled fast enough, or other issues may arise that must be resolved immediately. In these situations, where there may be irreparable harm if you must wait weeks or months for a hearing, your attorney can request an expedited hearing or an emergency hearing that allows you to get into court more quickly.

SC Family Court Emergency Hearings

Emergency hearings are reserved for true emergencies, such as when a child is in danger or a spouse is attempting to conceal marital funds prior to the court issuing an order.

When requesting an “ordinary” temporary hearing, the motion and notice of hearing must be served on the other party no less than five days before the scheduled hearing. An emergency hearing request, however, can be done ex parte (without notice to the other side) and there is no five-day notice requirement.

The motion for emergency temporary relief is filed along with a supporting affidavit, summons, complaint, and verification. If there is sufficient cause for an emergency hearing, the presiding judge will then schedule the hearing as soon as possible – in some cases, within 24 hours.

Examples of Emergency Hearings

What is an “emergency” for purposes of an emergency hearing in the family court? Some examples include:

    • Domestic abuse: Victims of domestic violence can request an emergency hearing to ask the court for an Order of Protection by filing a “Petition for Order of Protection” and checking box “L” on the form.
    • A child is in danger: The family court will schedule an emergency hearing when a child is in danger. For example, where a parent is abusing or neglecting a child, a parent has taken the children and intends to flee the jurisdiction with them, or the parent is abusing drugs or alcohol in front of the child.
  • A spouse is liquidating or concealing assets: If your spouse is in the process of liquidating their assets and transferring them to an overseas account, an emergency order and swift action may be necessary to prevent them from stealing marital property and committing fraud on the court.

Emergency hearings ask the court for substantive relief – you are asking the court to take an action, like removing a child from the home, issuing an Order of Protection, or preventing a spouse from concealing assets. The actions taken are temporary, but we can later ask the court to make them permanent at the final hearing.

SC Family Court Expedited Hearings

Expedited hearings typically involve procedural relief. They don’t necessarily require an immediate hearing within 24 hours, but they are appropriate when there is a procedural issue that must be resolved prior to a temporary hearing or other hearing that has already been scheduled by the court.

Examples of Expedited Hearings

An expedited hearing is appropriate when it is necessary to have a hearing before the hearing. If there is a procedural issue that affects an upcoming hearing, and we file a motion to have that procedural issue resolved, it does no good if the motion hearing for the procedural issue is scheduled after the original hearing.

In other words, in some situations, we need to jump to the front of the line to have an issue resolved before a hearing that has already been scheduled.

For example, we may request an expedited hearing when:

    • Continuance: You need to have a hearing continued, but the other side won’t consent to the continuance. We can file a motion to continue Hearing #1, but that does us no good if Hearing #2 on the motion to continue is not scheduled until two weeks after Hearing #1. So, we request an expedited hearing to get a ruling from the court on the continuance before the date of the hearing that we want to continue.
    • Jurisdiction: If we need to challenge the court’s jurisdiction over a motion filed by the other side, that issue needs to be heard first. For example, the other side may have filed a motion asking the court for custody of the children and a hearing has been scheduled. If the court does not have jurisdiction over their claim, however, there is no point in forcing us to prepare for a contested hearing (and charging our client for that preparation) when there is no jurisdiction in the first place. It’s a situation where hearing 2 (jurisdiction) must be heard before hearing 1 (custody).
  • Insufficient information: In some cases, the other side may file a motion and have a hearing scheduled without providing us enough information to prepare for the hearing. We may then file a motion requesting an expedited hearing (Hearing #2) before the date of Hearing 1, to ask the court for discovery or evidence of the other side’s claims before the hearing date so that we have an opportunity to investigate and prepare a defense to the claims.

In summary, temporary hearings allow the court to decide issues that cannot wait for a final divorce hearing. Emergency hearings are reserved for true emergencies and are scheduled quickly, sometimes within 24 hours. Expedited hearings usually deal with procedural issues that must be resolved prior to the date of a hearing that has already been scheduled.

Questions About Emergency Hearings and Expedited Hearings in the Family Court?

If you need to file a request for an emergency hearing or if you are considering separation or divorce and need legal advice, contact the SC divorce attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward at (843) 891-6100 or by sending us an email through our website to set up a consultation and find out how we can help.

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