Last week we discussed the process of preparing for and beginning a modification. This week we’ll discuss what comes after the case is filed, and what you need to do to be as prepared as possible. Beginning with temporary orders.
1. Temporary Orders
In family law, temporary orders stand as pillars of stability during periods of transition. These orders play a pivotal role in establishing a status quo through the pendency of the case. Until a ruling at final trial, temporary orders will be what governs the parties. This is crucial because the time period between temporary orders and final trial can span months if not years. It’s important that you put on a good case at temporary orders, because if you can get primary conservatorship flipped at that level, you will have a much easier time maintaining it at final trial.
As previously discussed, to have the best chance of success at a temporary orders hearing you will need to ensure all your evidence is ready to go and that your witnesses are lined up. Additionally, you will need to meet with your attorney and prepare to give your own testimony on the stand. How you present on the stand can go a long way with a judge. You will need to be dressed nicely, speak clearly, and free of any negative attitude. You also may need to practice your responses with your attorney, particularly regarding questions that opposing counsel may ask.
Once temporary orders have been entered, regardless of the outcome, both sides will likely begin serving discovery on the other side with discovery. In most cases discovery is a necessary tool to help uncover truth and build your case against the other side. You can help your attorney in this endeavor by providing them with tailored questions they can ask for interrogatories and the specific documents they should request for production. While general discovery is better than no discovery, getting specific information from the other side will be far more beneficial to your case.
A crucial point in your modification case is meeting all deadlines given to you by your attorney. There are several deadlines that are paramount to the success of your case. For example, there are two deadlines for designating expert witnesses. These deadlines are 120 days before trial for testifying experts in cases where you are seeking affirmative relief, and 90 days before trial for cases where you are not. It won’t do you much good to give your attorney the name of the children’s psychiatrist who has information on the other parent’s abuse 30 days before trial with the rest of your witnesses.
4. Final Trial
Final trial is the end all be all of your case (barring appeal). Most of the time this is your final stand to convince the judge and sometimes the jury to see things your way. Achieving success in a final trial in requires strategic preparation and a comprehensive approach. Presenting the facts of your case in the best possible light, anticipating and diminishing opposing arguments, and organizing compelling evidence are all necessary for best chance of success. Develop a clear and persuasive presentation, focusing on the key reasons why you need to be the primary conservator of the children. Don’t get lost in the weeds with third parties and trivial things. Focus on the facts that make you the better parent. There are no guarantees in court, but with proper preparation, and the right strategy you can be successful.