Procedures For Pendente Lite Hearings In Fairfax County
The Fairfax County Courthouse (called the “Jennings Judicial Center”) is the busiest courthouse in the Commonwealth. The Fairfax Circuit Court judges strive to ensure that the Circuit Court criminal and civil dockets run as smoothly and expeditiously as possible. As per the Constitution of the United States, persons charged with crimes are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. This requires the Circuit Court to implement strict procedures to guarantee that the civil docket, including divorce cases, can proceed in a timely manner.
As discussed by Matthew Smith in Navigating The Fairfax County Courts, civil motions are heard on Fridays in Fairfax Circuit Court. One of the most common motions heard on Fridays are motions related to “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief. A divorcing party can use a motion for pendente lite relief to seek a number of different remedies including, but not limited to, temporary child support, temporary spousal support, and exclusive use of the marital residence until the divorce is final. Many parties will want the court to rule on custody and visitation at the pendente lite hearing. However, Fairfax Circuit Court judges will not rule on custody or visitation unless one parent has been absolutely prohibiting contact between the other parent and the children. If a custodial parent is allowing the other parent to see the children in some capacity, even if limited, then the Fairfax Circuit Court judges will not temporarily rule on custody or visitation.
When a motion for pendente lite relief requests support the court will expect, when possible, that the parties exchange financial documents in advance of the hearing. All documentation must be exchanged no later than 11:15 a.m. the morning of the hearing. The documents should support the amount of present income which each party claims is earned by either or both of the parties. The documentation can include, but is not limited to, current pay slips, monthly profit/loss statements, or retirement statements.
The exchanging of documentation prior to the hearing allows each attorney to prepare proposed Guideline Worksheets based upon his or her client’s position as to the parties’ incomes. In addition to the proposed Guideline Worksheets, counsel must present a number of additional documents to the presiding judge. The documents include one fully completed certification endorsed by counsel for each of the parties that they have exchanged financial documents, all documents supporting each party’s position as to the current incomes of the parties, and a current monthly income/expense statement for each party that the attorney intends to introduce at the hearing.
Pendente lite hearings in Fairfax County follow a rigid structure. First, counsel for the “moving party” will have up to three minutes to make an opening statement outlining the relevant issues. The moving party will affirm the attorney’s statements. Counsel for the “responding party” will have up to seven minutes to cross-examine the moving party. Counsel for the moving party will have up to two minutes for re-direct. The responding party will then take the stand. Counsel for the responding party will have up to three minutes to make an opening statement setting forth all matters which that attorney would seek to elicit through a direct examination. The responding party will affirm that the counsel’s statements are accurate. Counsel for the moving party will have up to seven minutes to cross-examine the respondent. Respondent’s counsel will then have up to two minutes to question the respondent. Counsel will each then have up to two minutes for closing argument. Finally, the judge will make a finding based on the evidence provided and instruct the attorneys to draft and submit to the court for entry an Order reflecting the Judge’s ruling.
The above requirements, procedures, and structure encourage parties to resolve their divorce-related legal issues prior to the hearing date or, if not resolved, allow the Court to maintain a reasonable schedule. Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of Fairfax divorce lawyers who are seasoned at navigating the very precise procedures required in Fairfax cases. If you are facing a family law matter in Fairfax County, contact us today to arrange a consultation with one of our attorneys.