Emergency hearings can provide a way to get in front of a judge on pressing matters without waiting months for a hearing to be scheduled, but they are only available for true emergencies such as where a child is in danger, there is an immediate threat of domestic violence, or a spouse is attempting to hide assets to commit a fraud on the court.
For other pressing matters that must be heard before an already-scheduled hearing, your attorney can move for an expedited hearing to resolve issues like the need for discovery before a hearing, the need for a continuance when the other side will not consent, or motions to dismiss an action based on jurisdiction.
Your attorney may also file a motion for a temporary hearing to resolve some issues that just can’t wait for the final divorce hearing… What is the difference between emergency hearings, expedited hearings, and temporary hearings in SC’s family courts?
Emergency Hearings in Family Court in SC
When there is a true emergency, you or your attorney can ask for an emergency hearing – emergency hearings will be scheduled as soon as possible, often within 24 hours. They can be filed and argued ex parte – without notice to the other side, although the other side may have an opportunity to challenge the action later.
This is different than a temporary hearing. Temporary hearings provide an opportunity to resolve important issues that cannot wait until a final hearing, like child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, property issues like who stays in the family home, and restraining orders.
Temporary hearings can take time to schedule, however. When there is an immediate danger of irreparable harm to one of the parties, such as ongoing domestic abuse, danger of harm to the children, or a fraud that is being committed on the court, an emergency hearing can get you in front of the court immediately, bypassing the ordinary court docket.
A victim of domestic abuse can petition the court for an Order of Protection (a restraining order). You can file this on your own, often domestic violence shelters will assist with filing the Petition, or your attorney can file the Petition on your behalf.
Your attorney can also help you to prepare a financial declaration form (or short form financial declaration), supporting affidavits, summons, complaint, and verification that must be filed along with the petition.
In the Petition, you can ask the court to issue an Order of Protection that prohibits the defendant from:
- Abusing, threatening to abuse, molesting, or otherwise placing the Petitioner in fear of bodily injury,
- Using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against the Petitioner that would cause bodily injury,
- Communicating or attempting to communicate with the Petitioner, or entering or attempting to enter the Petitioner’s home, job, school, or other locations,
- Transferring, selling, or otherwise disposing of property that is jointly owned or owned by the Petitioner, or
- Harming any pets or animals owned by the Petitioner.
At the emergency hearing, the court can also grant:
- Temporary custody of minor children,
- Temporary child support,
- Temporary alimony, or
- Temporary use of the home or other property.
For cases where there is an immediate danger of irreparable harm, you can check box “m” to request that the court hold an emergency hearing within 24 hours.
Danger to Children
SC family courts may also order emergency relief when children are in danger, including situations where a parent is abusing or neglecting a child, abusing alcohol or drugs in front of the child, or preparing to leave the jurisdiction with a child.
Fraud on the Court
If one spouse is in the process of hiding or transferring marital property or funds to prevent you from accessing them, the family court can also issue an Order preventing the transfer and take other action, as appropriate, to prevent your spouse or former spouse from committing a fraud upon the court.
Expedited Hearings in Family Court in SC
Expedited hearings are different than emergency hearings. Expedited hearings involve situations where, although there is no immediate danger of harm to you or your children, there is a procedural issue that must be heard before an upcoming temporary hearing or other court date.
For example, if there is a hearing scheduled in two weeks, you must have a continuance, and the other side refuses to consent to the continuance, we will need to file a motion asking the court to resolve the issue and grant our continuance.
If we file the motion for continuance, and it is scheduled after the date of the hearing we need to have continued…
An expedited hearing allows us to “cut in line” and get a hearing on our continuance motion quickly so that the court can resolve the issue before the hearing that we need to have continued.
Another example of when an expedited hearing may be necessary is where the other side has filed a motion, and a hearing has been scheduled, but we do not have sufficient information to prepare for the hearing and respond to the other side’s claims.
In this situation, we can file a motion asking for an expedited hearing, before the original hearing date, where we can ask the court to order discovery and the production of evidence related to the other side’s claims.
What if the other side files an action and a hearing is scheduled, but we intend to ask the court to dismiss their action for lack of jurisdiction?
If the court does not have jurisdiction over the claims, you should not have to pay your attorney to investigate and prepare for a hearing that may not even go forward. In this situation, it may be appropriate for the court to schedule an expedited hearing, before the date of the original hearing, to determine whether the court even has jurisdiction to hear the matter.
If you or your children are in danger or if there is a risk of irreparable harm that must be addressed by the court immediately, talk to your Myrtle Beach divorce attorney on the Axelrod team as soon as possible. We can help you to secure the safety of yourself or your children and safeguard your financial interests by requesting an emergency hearing and an Order of Protection from the family court.