Many people believe that a hearing is automatically set when a divorce is filed. This is not true. If you want a hearing in front of a Judge regarding child and/or spousal support, property issues, debts, or any other matter the two parties cannot agree on, paperwork specifically requesting the hearing must be submitted. The paperwork needed to file for divorce is completely separate from the paperwork required for requesting a hearing.
When a divorce is filed, one of the documents needed is called a Petition. The Petition simply asserts the requests of the Petition for a divorce, and informs the court regarding child custody, visitation, whether spousal support is being requested, etc. There is nothing on the Petition that requests a hearing. The court does automatically set hearings regarding whether the paperwork has been served as well as a Case Settlement Conference, but these hearings are set far into the future. If one party is needing to get an order for child and/or spousal support, additional paperwork must be filled out and filed.
The paperwork for getting a hearing is in the FL-300 section of the available forms, while the forms to file for divorce are in the FL-100 section. In addition to requesting the hearing, one of the most important aspects of requesting a hearing is filing a declaration along with the hearing request. The declaration tells the Judge some of the details of your situation and why you believe your requests should be granted and orders made. Crafting an effective declaration is not easy, as many clients want to give the Judge far too much detail, and often details that are irrelevant. That is were working with a paralegal comes in! We can work together to craft a declaration that is effective and clear.
In addition to filing for the hearing, which in Riverside country will be set two and a half to three months from the day it is requested, it is wise to consider hiring an attorney who will represent you ONLY at the hearing. This is called a special appearance attorney. The attorney does not represent you for the entire case, and will not finish the divorce for you, but can speak for you in front of the Judge. Speaking effectively in court is very difficult, especially if the other side has hired an attorney to represent him/herself for the hearing.
There is a filing fee for requesting a hearing. The cost of the hearing is $60, and if child custody and visitation can’t be agreed upon, a $25 fee is charged to meet with a mediator who will discuss custody and visitation of your children. Oftentimes an order for child and spousal support is made, but if you believe the person who is being ordered to pay will ignore the order, you can take an Income Withholding Order with you to the hearing. Once the Judge has ordered child and spousal support, the Income Withholding Order is also signed by the Judge and must be served on the employer. The State Disbursement Unit will collect child and spousal support from an employer, but will not help with the garnishment of wages for a spousal support only order. There are different forms for getting a spousal support garnishment order.
Kristin Harrison is an Independent Paralegal/Legal Document Assistant who serves Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Sun City, Perris, Winchester, French Valley, Canyon Lake, and Menifee. Call 951-795-3900 to discuss your case.