Divorce Process: What is a Temporary Hearing

You are in the beginning of your divorce.  You have filed and served your spouse or they have filed and served you.  One of the documents you have received is a Notice of Temporary Hearing.  So what is a Temporary Hearing?

In contested South Carolina divorce and other Family Court Matters, a temporary hearing is held at the very beginning of the case.  On your paperwork, this may also be referred to as a Pendent Lite hearing for temporary relief.  The basic purpose of a temporary hearing is to get an Order in place for the pendency of the action.  That means the relief ordered by the Family Court at a Temporary Hearing is (1) temporary, lasting only for the duration of the case, and (2) binding on the parties – meaning if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you can be held in contempt and punished by the Family Court’s contempt powers.

The temporary issues that the court normally determines in a this type of hearing are typically:

  1. Child custody
  2. Child support
  3. Visitation
  4. Spousal support/alimony
  5. Use of some marital property like the home or vehicles
  6. Orders requiring people to maintain current insurance coverages
  7. Restraining orders against harassment or sale or marital property

By definition, a temporary Order is only good until a Final Order has been signed by the judge.  At that point, you must comply with the final order.  A result at a temporary hearing also does not prejudice a party at the final trial.  Just because your spouse was awarded custody or alimony at a temporary hearing, does not mean they will automatically be victorious on those issues at trial.  You should definitely consult with an attorney to determine your best chances in those situations.

A South Carolina Family Court temporary hearing is different for another reason.  There is generally no testimony taken at a temporary hearing.  The parties are required to provide affidavits to the Court and are limited to 8 pages of affidavits.  You must also provide a financial declaration for the judge to review.  After reading the affidavits, the judge may allow for a short argument on the issues by the attorneys and will usually then make their ruling for the Temporary Order.

While this may not be the best or fairest way to determine the pendente lite rulings, it is the current state of the law and how we must proceed in our cases.

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