Should I Attend my Divorce Hearings?
Although the divorce process can be extremely difficult, grueling, and emotionally painful to confront, there are times where your physical presence is necessary and required before a judge or magistrate. Even when your presence is not statutorily required at a hearing or meeting with a judge, it is still best practice and highly encouraged to make yourself available and attend these proceedings in person. Your Orlando Divorce Attorney will be able to discuss with you before each hearing the process, your involvement, and the ramifications of your failure to appear.
One of the first interactions you may have with the court is a pretrial or case management conference. In Florida, these can be requested by either party or the judge assigned to the case. The main goal of these meetings is to discover the disputed and undisputed issues, what discovery has been completed and what is yet to be done, scheduling of hearings, or determine the need for a trial or if the case can be settled through other methods. A case management conference requires reasonable notice be given to each party, while a pretrial conference requires 20 days notice. Failure of a party to attend these conferences may result in a dismissal of the case, limitation of witnesses, or striking of pleadings. Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.200
Other hearings you may face in your divorce action, prior to its final conclusion are hearings on a Motion for Temporary Relief, Motion for Contempt, or Motion for Temporary Injunction. All of these motions will have a hearing where evidence will be presented, generally in the form of testimony of the parties involved. Outside of your testimony, your presence is required at all hearings by Florida Law. Failure to attend a hearing can result in serious penalties. For instance, if a party has not filed any response in the case and fails to attend a hearing, the court may enter a default judgment granting the appearing spouse all requested relief. If one spouse does not appear, but has had some prior involvement in the case, the court may choose to reschedule the hearing or simply take testimony and evidence from the appearing spouse and render a judgment. Finally, failure to appear can result in an order finding you in contempt of court resulting in civil or criminal penalties such as fines or jail time.
A final hearing is the last stop on your path to finalizing your divorce. The only case where a party is not required by statute to attend the final hearing, is an uncontested divorce. In uncontested proceedings, only the Petitioner is required to be present before the court. However, even in uncontested actions, it is still prudent to attend the final hearing, as the court may ask for certain testimony or information and you will not be present to hear or involve yourself in the testimony provided. In all other final hearings on divorce actions, the same rules for general hearings apply, where both parties are required to attend and significant penalties can be entered against you for your failure to appear.
Although divorce hearings can be draining, both mentally and emotionally, your presence is necessary to abide by certain statutory requirements, provide you with firsthand knowledge of the proceedings, and show the court your investment in this action. If you have questions or fears regarding your attendance at court hearings, discuss these with your Orlando Divorce Attorney and he will be able to place you at ease and explain in great detail the entire process.
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