South Carolina Supreme Court promulgates new rules for family court temporary hearings and docketing trials

In the November 21, 2012 advance sheet, the South Carolina Supreme Court promulgated new rules regarding family court temporary hearings (pages 5-6) and docketing of trials (page 9).  The temporary hearing rule is effective immediately for all newly filed motions.  The docketing rule goes into effect for all cases set on or after January 7, 2013.

The temporary hearing rule requires most temporary hearings to be set within four weeks, to only be set for 15 minutes, and limits each litigant to eight pages of affidavits–excepting fee affidavits and supporting exhibits.  Parties wishing to extend the fifteen minutes limit to thirty minutes must request additional time from the Clerk of Court and will not be held to the eight page document limit set.  Further, the Supreme Court promulgated a new form that must be submitted by each party at the temporary hearing: Background Information Sheet Form SCCA 459.

Attorneys requesting a Temporary Hearing must designate on the Motion for Temporary Relief the name of opposing counsel if known.  Attorneys representing the moving party shall list all conflict dates and times when requesting a hearing on Motions for Temporary Relief.  The Clerk of Court shall coordinate the scheduling of Temporary Hearings with all counsel known to be involved in the case

The order regarding trial docketing reads:

IT IS ORDERED that an ABC Trial Roster shall be set for each term of family court. Any contested case set for three or more hours shall be designated as the “A” case. Each “A” case is to be backed up by a “B” case and a “C” case.  If the “A” case goes to trial, the “B” and “C” cases are to be continued and rescheduled as an “A” case. If any of the “A”, “B”, or “C” cases settle, the presiding judge shall conduct a hearing(s) to approve the settlement(s) and dispose of the case(s) before commencing the contested case.

Basically, one can only be listed as a standby case once and if the case is not called on the standby date, one will be assigned a day certain.  Left unanswered is how much notice a party or attorney is entitled to before a standby is converted into a day certain.

As for the limitation on affidavit pages, with some exceptions I do not believe one can properly represent a client in a contested temporary hearing involving custody with a limitation of eight pages of affidavits.  There are many temporary hearings involving alimony in which I believe it inadvisable to remain within the eight page limit, especially when fault is a major factor in the alimony or when the parties’ incomes or expenses are in dispute.  For such situations, one should probably request a half hour hearing.

While the new temporary hearing rule encourages counsel to communicate before setting a temporary hearing, that is often not possible when a new action is filed.  It is unclear what the procedure is when a moving attorney seeks a 15 minute hearing and the defending attorney appears and wishes to present more than eight pages of affidavits.  One would assume that the hearing would have to be continued–rather than the defending attorney being limited against his or her will to eight pages of affidavits–but this new rule fails to address that issue.

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