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What Is an Ex Parte Order and When Is It Used in Family Law?

What Is an Ex Parte Order and When Is It Used in Family Law?

Family law matters are notoriously time-consuming. Divorce, property division, and custody battles can take months or even years to complete, even with the skilled support of a qualified legal team.

But what if you don’t have that time? What if you are dealing with an emergency, and your situation requires an action or resolution within a matter of days?

Fortunately, California recognizes the ex parte order: an emergency court order allowing you to meet with the judge without the other party. Normally, court orders require all involved parties to appear before the judge, but the ex parte motion acknowledges certain circumstances when a family requires existing arrangements to change immediately.

An ex parte order may make changes to one or more of the following:

  • Property use or possession
  • Child custody/visitation arrangements
  • Child support or spousal/domestic partner support
  • A filing deadline or the timeline of a hearing
  • Domestic violence orders (NOTE: The ex parte application process is meant to change or end existing domestic violence orders. Speak with our attorneys to learn how to file a new temporary restraining order.)

An ex parte order typically creates a temporary arrangement, but it has the power to make a significant difference in a family’s financial security, wellbeing, and/or safety without the time-consuming requirements of a traditional court order.

When Can You File an Ex Parte Order in California?

In the U.S., we are lucky to benefit from a justice system that values due process for all involved parties. Therefore, to justifiably sidestep due process by granting an ex parte motion, a court will need to see evidence of an emergency-level situation that cannot wait for a scheduled hearing.

Here are a few examples of when a court will issue an ex parte order in a family law case:

  • Threat of financial harm. If one spouse, for example, is taking action to ruin the other spouse’s financial wellbeing (e.g. destroying marital property, accruing significant amounts of debt, etc.), an ex parte order can stop this process. A court will likely issue this motion if the applicant would become destitute without immediate interference.
  • Failure of one party to fulfill terms of a divorce. While local and state courts differ, some judges will issue an ex parte order if one party is not meeting the terms of their divorce. This may involve missing spousal support payments or failing to fulfill parenting plan obligations.
  • Abuse or domestic violence. Obtaining an ex parte order is challenging, but courts are typically more lenient if they observe evidence of an abusive relationship—especially when it involves children. Protective orders, for example, are often ex parte, designed to end violence or harassment before a criminal proceeding has taken place or reached a final verdict.

In general, an ex parte motion is meant to prevent immediate and irreparable injury. It sidesteps one party’s rights, as well as the traditional timeline of a court order.

Can an Ex Parte Order Be Overturned?

Although these motions can help those who genuinely require immediate change, some people may not have the best of intentions when they apply. They may try to obtain an ex parte order to prioritize their own best interests, prevent another party from presenting incriminating evidence, or take advantage of a streamlined process they don’t necessarily need.

Ex parte orders carry the full weight of a traditional court order, but they are often temporary and followed closely by a hearing. To determine whether an ex parte motion in your family law matter can be repealed, get in touch with experienced legal professionals as soon as possible.

Contact Our Legal Team for Assistance with Your Ex Parte Matter

While a few basic laws govern all ex parte orders in California, the result of each individual case will depend on how the judge sees your situation. Whether you are petitioning for an ex parte order or attempting to overturn it, Gill Law Group, PC will work to defend your rights and advance your best interests.

With emergency court orders, every moment counts. Contact our firm at (949) 681-9952 today.

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