San Diego Child Custody and Evidentiary Hearings
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The evidentiary hearing is a stage in a custody dispute that scares a lot of people. They often have no idea how to approach it. Since the evidentiary hearing is a standard part of the process in California family law courts, everyone going through a custody battle must be prepared for it.
What Is an Evidentiary Hearing?
Many people confuse an evidentiary hearing with a trial, and while they are similar, they are actually two different things. The confusion comes in part because for custody cases, the two terms are often used interchangeably. A trial is a final hearing in a court case, after which the judge or jury will issue a definitive order regarding the case. An evidentiary hearing could happen at any point during a case, and it involves the judge listening to evidence and making a decision about one aspect of the case.
In both a trial and an evidentiary hearing, it is possible to bring forth witnesses and present evidence to support your position. That means that an evidentiary hearing gives you the opportunity to put any pertinent evidence that will support your custody case before the judge. When it comes to a custody dispute, an evidentiary hearing comes at the end, after which the judge will also make a final ruling.
So while an evidentiary hearing is not technically a trial, for all intents and purposes, it is just like one. We do not recommend going into an evidentiary hearing without an experienced family law attorney to represent you.
How Can I Prepare for an Evidentiary Hearing in a Custody Case?
There are several things you should know about an evidentiary hearing. According to Family Code §217 Rule 5.113, "at a hearing on any request for order brought under the Family Code... the court must receive any live, competent, and admissible testimony that is relevant and within the scope of the hearing." In addition to speaking on their own behalf, the participants in an evidentiary hearing have the right to present live testimony from other parties as long as they submit a witness list prior to the hearing.
Just as in a normal trial, the opposing party (parent) in the case will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses that you bring forward, and you will be able to cross-examine his or her witnesses. The judge will often ask questions as well. Evidentiary hearings take less than a day, so you need to be fully prepared to make your case, as you may not have another opportunity.
In general, once the judge has rendered a verdict, the custody order will be final. If a change in circumstances occurs, such as one parent moving to a new location, the other parent will have to file for a motion to hold a new hearing. There’s no chance for you to appeal a decision just because you are unhappy with the outcome.
However, in rare instances, the court will make a legal mistake during a hearing, in which case it is possible to appeal. However, this process can be quite lengthy. In general, once the court has ruled at an evidentiary hearing, both parents are expected to respect the decision.
When the custody of your child is at stake, it’s critical that you put together the best possible case prior to an evidentiary hearing. You need a San Diego custody attorney who is experienced with conducting bench trials and presenting evidence before a judge. Thomas Huguenor and his associates at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., have successfully handled all manner of child custody cases and are fully committed to helping families. To schedule a free consultation, call (858) 458-9500 today.