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Ex Parte Hearings

What Does Ex Parte Mean?

The phrase ex parte is a Latin term meaning ‘from one side.’ In a legal context, the term ex parte describe a situation where only one party to a legal action communicates with, or presents evidence to, a judge, usually in an emergency situation, and often with little or no notice of the hearing to the opposing party, in order to request immediate court orders necessary to prevent imminent, irreparable, and significant harm.

Ex parte court orders are enforceable by law, even if the opposing party had little or no opportunity to respond to the requesting party's request.

Emergency Requirement

Ex parte does not mean emergency; however, most ex parte hearings are heard by the court on an emergency basis. For a party to be heard ex parte there must usually be a possibility of an immediate, irreparable, and significant harm. Many people, including attorneys, use the terms ex parte and emergency hearing synonymously, despite the fact that those terms are not synonymous. To be heard on an emergency ex parte the requesting party must request to be heard ex parte and to be heard on an emergency basis (application for emergency orders).

Common Ex Party Issues

To Protect a Child: Ex parte orders are typically granted on an emergency basis where there is an allegation of child abuse, child neglect, or possible child kidnapping (abduction), and the requested orders are necessary to protect the child from imminent and irreparable harm.

To Prevent Personal Injury: Ex parte orders are typically granted on an emergency basis where those orders are necessary to prevent imminent and irreparable physical injury . See domestic violence restraining orders.

To Prevent Financial Harm: Ex parte orders are typically requested where significant financial injury is imminent and irreparable. For example, ex parte hearings on an emergency basis are common where one party claims that his or her spouse is purposefully destroying or spending community property before the court has divided the marital assets in a divorce case, or where a person will have no means to provide for himself or herself, or his or her child, without emergency spousal support or child support.

Procedural Issues: Ex parte hearings are common with legal procedural issues, including: motions to quash (cancel) a subpoena, motions for more time to file responsive answers, motions to allow shorter notice of a hearing, etc. Procedural ex parte hearings are almost exclusively used by attorneys, as opposed to non-attorneys who represent themselves in family law matters. Procedural issues are less likely to be heard on an ex parte basis even if the hearing may held on an emergency basis.

Temporary Relief

Ex parte hearings are usually heard on an emergency basis (within a few days of filing the request). This means the opposing party has very little notice, or no notice, of the hearing, and therefore, no time to adequately respond to the allegations. For this reason, most ex parte orders are temporary. A temporary ex parte order means that the orders will remain in place only until a full evidentiary hearing is held where the responding party has had sufficient opportunity to effectively respond to the allegations.

Requesting Ex Parte Hearings

To file for a request for an ex parte hearing and/or request for emergency court orders, the requesting party must complete several required ex parte and/or application for emergency orders forms, along with declarations.

The ex parte forms and the application for emergency orders forms require: 1) a full description of the need for the ex parte and/or emergency orders and how irreparable and immediate harm will result without the requested court orders, 2) the identity and contact information of all the parties involved (including attorneys, CPS, Juvenile Dependency Court, etc.), 3) the status and dates of any previous and current orders concerning the same issue, even if the facts are different on prior applications for ex parte or emergency court orders, and 4) a description of the time and type of notice, if any, that was given to the opposing party, and whether or not the opposing party intends to object to the request, or 5) a full description of why the opposing party should not, or could not, be notified.

Ex Parte Notice Requirements

A party may ask the court to waive the ex parte and/or emergency orders request notice requirement to all parties and their attorneys if: 1) giving notice would frustrate the purpose of the request, 2) giving notice would result in immediate and irreparable harm to the applicant or the children for whom the order was sought, 3) giving notice would result in immediate and irreparable loss of property, or 4) the party made reasonable and good faith efforts to give notice to the opposing party and further efforts to give notice would probably be futile or unduly burdensome.

Notice of the ex parte and/or emergency hearing request (if not waived by the judge) must be made to the opposing party and his or her attorney no later than 10:00 a.m. the business day before the expected hearing. Notice may be made by phone or writing, or both.

A party seeking ex parte and/or emergency orders must serve the papers on the opposing party at the first reasonable opportunity before the hearing. In practice, this often happens only moments before the court hearing.

Presenting Evidence at Ex Parte Hearings

Family law judges may rule on the ex parte application based solely on the filed paperwork; however, most judges will allow some oral testimony and impeachment evidence in defense (opposition) to the request for ex parte and/or emergency orders.

Custody and Parenting Time Disputes

Ex parte requests for modification of child custody or parenting time (child visitation) orders will usually result in emergency mediation (often on the same day of the ex parte hearing). See Family Court Services Mediation.

For more information on Ex Parte Hearings and Application for Emergency Orders, contact our experienced and successful divorce and family law attorneys today for a free consultation. Call today! 


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Updated July 17, 2021

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