San Diego Child Custody and Evidentiary Hearings
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.
You should only trust your case to an experienced San Diego child custody attorney. Your relationship with your child can be put in jeopardy based on the results of an evidentiary hearing, but our team at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., has the skill to protect your family’s future. We have more than four decades of experience representing clients in difficult custody battles. Let us guide you through this process.
Call our office today at (858) 458-9500 to get a free case evaluation.
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.
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.
Evidentiary hearings are common when parents cannot come to terms during a custody dispute. If you or your ex files a motion in a San Diego court to decide custody, then either side’s attorney can request an evidentiary hearing to present evidence and testimony before a judge. While it may be scary, it grants you the opportunity to bring in testimony to advocate for your best interests.
It is important to understand that evidentiary hearings must be requested and can be denied by a judge in extreme circumstances. For example, if two parents have been in a long custodial battle over multiple years, the court may determine that it has enough evidence already to make a decision without having to schedule an additional hearing.
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; they may also present “exhibits,” which can include videos, photos, audio recordings, screenshots, documents, medical records, or other relevant reports.
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.
Evidentiary hearings are designed to present a judge with all relevant information before he or she makes a decision in a custody dispute. The judge may rule at the end of the hearing or hold a separate hearing to issue a final judgment. Based on the testimonies heard in an evidentiary hearing, the judge may issue judgments outlining:
- Physical custody vs. legal custody
- The terms of joint custody
- If one parent will receive sole custody and if the other parent will receive visitation
- Out-of-state relocations
- International move-away petitions
- Court-ordered counseling
- Other custody modifications
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 family law attorney who is experienced with conducting bench trials and presenting evidence before a judge.
Thomas M. Huguenor has been a Board-Certified Specialist in Family Law since 1981. Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. is thoroughly involved in child custody cases and fully committed to helping parents with child custody cases in Family Court. Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. can help you with your evidentiary hearing regarding family law and child custody issues.
To schedule a free consultation with our legal team, call (858) 458-9500 today.