Parties who have filed their petitions with the family court seeking a divorce, grandparents rights, modifications of orders, paternity, or other relief may have to wait months for a hearing. Unfortunately, some matters might be pressing and cannot wait for months to be resolved. In those cases, the family court uses Requests for Orders or RFOs to settle these matters while the case continues.
WHAT IS A REQUEST FOR ORDER?
A Request for Order (RFO) is used in the family court to request a hearing. The hearing is to ask the judge to grant specific relief.
An RFO is the same as an Order to Show Cause, which continues to be used by some courts. The family court merely changed the name from Order to Show Cause to a Request for Order. Some courts refer to an RFO as a motion.
The relief granted is generally temporary, pending a final hearing. However, the order may be final in some cases. It depends on the type of relief sought and the facts of the case.
For example, a couple might file for divorce, but they disagree on matters related to custody and child support. Either party can file an RFO requesting a hearing for a judge to rule on the matters. The case continues, and the ruling could change depending on the evidence presented during the trial or the agreement of the parties for a final divorce order.
HOW ARE REQUESTS FOR ORDERS HANDLED?
A party seeking an order from a judge files the Request for Order with the court. The RFO must be served to the responding party. Other documents may also need to be served on the responding party with the Request for Order form.
The responding party has a certain number of days to file a response with the court and serve the response on the petitioning party. The response is a Responsive Declaration for Request for Order. The response may also request relief related to the issues raised in the RFO.
Depending on the type of Request for Order, each of the parties might be required to complete, file, and serve on the other party additional documents before the hearing. For example, if the matter involves spousal support, the court could require financial statements, tax returns, and other financial documents.
The court schedules a time for the judge to hear the RFO. Both parties should attend the hearing with their attorneys. The attorneys prepare their clients for the hearing and prepare the evidence to present at the hearing.
In some cases, the court grants an emergency ex parte hearing on an RFO. An ex parte hearing only involves the petitioning party. The other party may have little to no notice of the emergency hearing.
The reason for an emergency hearing must be included in the RFO and demonstrate the possibility of immediate and significant harm. Emergency RFOs are often used in cases involving harm to a child, such as abuse, abduction, or neglect. They may also be used in domestic violence cases or to prevent financial harm from spouses disposing of marital assets
FILING A REQUEST FOR ORDER CAN BE COMPLICATED
Requests for Orders are common in family law matters. They are used in all types of cases. However, the process of filing an RFO can be complicated.
Specific forms must be used when filing a Request for Order. If you do not use the correct forms, the court might reject the filing.
Additionally, the forms must be completed correctly. All information must be supplied, and the information needs to be accurate. Depending on the nature of the request, additional forms or documents might be required to obtain a hearing date.
If you complete the forms incorrectly, the court could use that information to decide the hearing. Mistakes and errors made on legal forms can be difficult to undo. An error could result in costly and painful long-term consequences.
While the court provides forms on its website and some simple instructions for filing a Request for Order, it is best to consult with a family law attorney before filing any documents with the family court. The court might allow you to represent yourself in a family court hearing, but that is not always in your best interest.
The rules of evidence, court procedures, and the laws applicable in your case remain the same. A lack of knowledge is not a defense. The judge can hold you to the same standards as he would a family law attorney.
Because there could be significant long-term consequences, it is best to consult with an attorney before attempting to file a Request for Order in a family law matter.