What Is an Ex Parte Hearing?

What Is an Ex Parte Hearing?

Regardless of the circumstances, divorce and legal separation are difficult for everyone involved. Sometimes, however, they can be particularly stressful, such as when there is a threat of violence, danger, or significant financial injury.

Fortunately, the California judicial system has in place a procedure to deal with circumstances like these quickly: ex parte hearings.

Ex parte hearings are simply emergency hearings. Depending on a court’s caseload, it can take weeks or even months to get a hearing before a judge.

Ex parte hearings are designed to reduce that time drastically. However, they are only available for true emergencies, when there is a threat of
irreparable harm or immediate danger. Examples of factual circumstances that may warrant an ex parte hearing include the following:

  • child visitation or custody rights with a parent who leads a dangerous lifestyle;
  • a threat of grave injury to a couple’s children; and
  • a valid concern about depletion of community funds from a joint account.
An application for ex parte relief must be supported by very strong evidence of future irreparable harm or immediate danger. For example, exposure of a young child to alcohol and drugs could warrant an application for an ex parte hearing. Likewise, the prior acts of a spouse wiping out community funds from one bank account would likely warrant ex parte relief to prevent him or her from doing the same thing with other accounts.

In most cases, the person against whom an order will operate, usually the other party to the divorce or custody proceeding, has a right to notice before an ex parte hearing is held. This is because the judge may order relief that contravenes that person’s rights, such as the right to visitation or the right to access his or her own money. However, when absolutely necessary, notice may be avoided. This is only true if providing notice will result in immediate, irreparable harm.

Care must be taken when requesting ex parte relief. If it is requested unnecessarily, it can affect the court’s view of the parties in future proceedings. Judy Burger is experienced in presenting ex parte issues in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento areas. If you believe ex parte relief may be needed in your case, contact her today at (415) 259-6636.