So….Does it really matter? Temporary Order Hearings v Trials

In Family Law and Divorce cases in King County and Snohomish County, most divorce and third party custody cases will go to court early in the case in what is called a temporary orders hearing.  I’m often asked which one is more important.  When it comes to temporary order hearings v trials, the answer in my mind is clear: it’s temporary order hearings.  In that one hearing, a commissioner will spend 5 minutes on your case and make a decision on who gets to keep the children, which car you will drive, how much spousal maintenance you will,
how much child support you will pay or receive, whether or not you can relocate, and who has to pay what bills until the trial. In other words, everything.


In almost all cases, it’s a no brainier.  When it comes to temporary order hearings v trial, the temporary order hearings win hands down.  The temporary orders hearing sets the tone for the case.  Up to that point and until trial itself, the temporary orders hearing is the single biggest event in your divorce so far. It’s huge. A wrong turn can paralyze your divorce and ruin your life. It can result in your alcoholic wife getting custody of your daughter instead of you. It can result in your wife beating husband (or husband beating husband) who has a cocaine addiction getting every a 50/50 visitation plan with your kids, requiring you to pay him child support!  Or it can financially ruin if you get the wrong commissioner who is dead set on doing what he thinks is right v following the law.  This happens far more often than many family law attorneys will admit.

Why does my attorney want to continue the hearing?  I want this over now!

Often times the commissioners ruling on your case aren’t even commissioners. They are pro tems. Pro Tems are temporary school teachers. They are frequently relied upon in our judicial system and they have very little oversight.  How bad can it get?




I watched one pro tem commissioner award over $5,000 of a father’s pay to the wife when he earned only $8,000 a month gross.  The commissioner clearly had an axe to grind against men in general and let his own emotions get in the way of doing what’s right.  The attorney rightly moved for a motion for revision, but my suspicion is that it was too little, too late.  What did the poor guy do to trigger the wrath of this commissioner?  Other than being born with with wrong gender parts, I don’t have any idea, but my guess is that this father will soon find himself in jail because he can’t afford to pay his wife $5,000 a month in undifferentiated support when his gross is $8,000.  The taxes alone will eat him alive unless his family bails him out.  So if you are thinking that this temporary order hearing coming up  doesn’t matter because you got that trial 11 months from now, think again.  98% of cases settle.  It’s very unlikely you’ll be seeing that trial judge a year from now.  My best advise is be prepared.  And if your attorney gets a bad feeling about a commissioner or suddenly starts barfing out his guts for no apparent physically clear reason, you might want to listen to your attorney when he suggests that you continue the hearing.  He might just be betting on a different commissioner because he knows that in all likelihood this temporary order is what will decide the rest of your life.  In the legal world, sometimes its best to live to fight another day, than lose and not be able to fight at all.



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