The parties in this divorce were married for thirteen years and had two children together. The case also involved division of community property and debt, community waste, spousal maintenance, and attorney’s fees.
Father wanted to divorce as quickly and amicably as possible, so he filed pro se (without an attorney), hopeful he and Mother could resolve the issues personally. He asked the family court to equally divide community property and debt and to give each parent equal parenting time and joint legal decision-making (custody).
Mother retained a divorce attorney in Mesa to file her response where Mother alleged Father physically and emotionally abused their children; and that Father fraudulently and/or criminally disposed of or wasted community funds. In her response, Mother demanded:
- Sole custody;
- Exclusive use of the marital residence;
- That the community debt be disproportionately Father’s responsibility;
- Spousal maintenance; and
- Attorney’s fees
Mother also requested temporary orders for the same bulleted relief on an interim basis while the divorce litigation proceeded.
At this point, Father retained our law firm to vigorously defend against Mother’s allegations. When we entered the case, we tried to reason with Mother’s attorney and reach an agreement to avoid a temporary orders trial. Unfortunately, Mother’s attorney maintained the positions we believed were unreasonable. Candidly, this is pretty routine, especially for divorce attorneys who bill their clients hourly. A temporary orders trial is very similar to a final trial, though usually a little bit shorter duration. These trials still require the parties to submit pretrial statements and to prepare evidence and testimony. Even when a hearing is scheduled for just one hour, an hourly attorney may be able to bill his client for eight to ten additional hours of preparation and travel. So you can understand why Mother’s attorney perhaps did not want to vacate the hearing.
The parties attended the temporary orders trial where the judge actually issued most of her ruling from the bench. Overall, Mother did not obtain any of the bulleted items.
Temporary orders are expressly subject to modification on a final basis. This is because temporary orders hearings usually occur very early in the case and, as a result, often are based on presentation of incomplete evidence. However, these rulings can offer extremely valuable insights into the judge’s inclination to rule on a final basis. In this case, any experienced divorce attorney should have recognized that this ruling’s specific findings would impact and essentially preclude Mother’s claims on a final basis. Nevertheless, Mother’s attorney continued to spend vast amounts of time and money on unnecessary discovery, including several subpoenas for financial records that were inconsequential to the case.
Ultimately, as her attorney’s fees mounted, Mother reconsidered her positions and agreed to settlement that essentially affirmed the family court’s temporary orders.