All About Family Court Motions

Family court motions may be filed while a case is pending or after the judge has issued the final orders. After a petition and answer are filed, there are several motions you might use to secure various types of relief.

Family Court Motions While a Case Is Pending

Motions filed while a case is pending allow a party to ask the court for temporary relief until the decree or final judgment is issued.

Motion for Temporary Child Custody and Support

A petition for child custody can take months to resolve. Filing a motion for temporary child custody, visitation, and support establishes a temporary order that lasts until the judge issues the final divorce decree or child custody/visitation orders.

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Motion for Temporary Spousal Support

When there’s a significant disparity in the incomes of divorcing spouses, the lower-earning spouse can request spousal support in the settlement. However, they might need money to get by while the case is pending. The lower-earning spouse can file a motion for temporary spousal support until the final divorce decree is issued.

Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order/Injunction

You can file motions for temporary restraining orders (TRO) or injunctions when you need protection from abuse. Upon filing, the court holds an ex parte hearing to determine whether a TRO should be granted. This order is not effective until the other party is properly served with notice. They then have a chance to challenge the TRO, and the court will hold a hearing on whether the restraining order should be made permanent.

Motion for Exclusive Use of Marital Home

You might file this common type of motion if you want to remain in the home and be free from emotional or physical abuse by your spouse or if you have a child whose life would be disrupted if they were forced to move. Also, a disabled person might file this motion for the exclusive use of the marital home if finding a new home with appropriate modifications would be difficult or unaffordable.

Motion to Compel Discovery

In family court cases, both parties must share documents and evidence like income sources, wages, tax statements, debts, etc. If the other party is refusing to turn over needed documents, you can file a motion to compel discovery. The judge may then order the other party to disclose the information you have requested by a set deadline or risk being held in contempt of court.

Post-Decree Motions

Even after a judge has issued a final decree or orders in your family court case, your circumstances might change, making it necessary to ask for the orders to be modified.

Motion to Modify Child Custody or Support

The circumstances of one or both parents might change to such a degree that the original child custody and visitation order no longer work. For example, a parent might have taken a job in a new city and is no longer able to keep to the original visitation schedule. In such situations, either parent can file a motion to modify the court’s child custody and visitation schedule.
Similarly, if you are ordered to pay child support but have suffered a substantial drop in your income, you can file a motion to modify child support. The change must be substantial, like if you’ve lost your job or have suffered a disabling injury.

Motion to Modify Spousal Support

A spouse who has been ordered to pay spousal support can file a motion to modify the amount. Like motions to modify child support, this type of motion will only be granted if the changes in your financial circumstances are significant.

Motion to Relocate with a Child

What if a parent wants to move to a new city or state with the child? That parent can file a motion to relocate with the court in which the original order was issued. The parent who wants to move must give notice to the other parent of their intentions well in advance by certified, return-receipt mail or personal service. The other parent can then file an objection to the motion with the court. The judge will look at the reasons the parent wants to move and the impact on the child of seeing the other parent less often. 
If the court denies a motion to relocate, it doesn’t mean that the parent can’t move. However, they won’t be able to take the child with them if they do so.

Motion to Enforce

Following the final divorce decree, one spouse might fail to divide certain types of assets promptly. For example, if a spouse was supposed to refinance the mortgage on the marital home that’s in their name only but fails to do so, the other spouse can file a motion to enforce the court’s order.

Motion for Contempt

You can file a motion for contempt when the other party fails to do something the court ordered them to do. Motions for contempt are often filed in cases when a parent fails to make their spousal or child support payments. If the court holds the other party in contempt, various sanctions can be ordered, including jail, wage garnishments, property liens, levies, and more.

Whether you need immediate relief while your case is pending or after the judge has issued the final orders, it’s possible to ask the court to intervene and provide relief.

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