What Is a Preliminary Divorce Hearing?

By Mary Corbin
An amicable settlement can be reached during a preliminary divorce hearing.

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Divorce proceedings can be emotionally difficult and drawn out. Sometimes, after a couple formally files for divorce, a hearing or trial before a judge is necessary. Typically, a preliminary divorce hearing is used to urge each side to make concessions and agree to a settlement before the court makes important decisions on their behalf.

Divorce Petitions

A divorce is initiated when one spouse files for dissolution of the marriage. Depending on the jurisdiction, a petition for divorce can be no-fault based or fault-based. A pre-trial period starts once the other spouse receives the petition and files an answer. This pre-trial period allows the spouses to identify and investigate martial assets. A preliminary divorce hearing date is set for the judge to address motions, orders and negotiations regarding settlement.

Preliminary Motions

Parties may file motions for a judge's consideration and ruling during the preliminary hearing. Spouses can make motions to exclude certain marital assets from the divorce hearing, to request an extension for discovery, or to request an injunction that would withhold property access from one spouse.

Preliminary Support and Custody Orders

During a preliminary divorce hearing, a judge may issue temporary orders regarding custody and child support if the couple had children during the marriage. These orders tend to be preliminary provisions that do not affect the court's final determinations during the actual divorce hearing. This type of preliminary hearing aims to ensure the children will be cared and provided for throughout the divorce process.

Preliminary Conference

Some preliminary hearings can seem like a conference with the judge. These meetings take place in the judge's chambers, where clients and their attorneys present their positions. The judge listens to arguments presented by each side and makes recommendations, not rulings. This gives each side a chance to see how the judge may rule during a divorce hearing. This informal meeting is a final effort to reach a settlement before a trial or hearing.

About the Author

Mary Corbin began her career writing for online and print media in Indianapolis. Since 2004, she has covered subjects such as home and family, technology and legal issues. Working in the broadcast industry, Corbin created articles for marketing, public relations and business matters. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.