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What’s an Ex-Parte Motion or Order?


If you are reading this, you may have just been served with documents that included the words “ex parte”.  It may have been a motion, a petition, or an order.  You probably received the document from a process server, and that signaled to you that this was pretty serious (and yes, this is serious!).

Even if you were not served by a process server, the allegations in the motion or petition are likely very serious, and here you are, trying to figure out what to do.  We are here to help!  The least we can do is provide you with some information and we’d prefer to help you with responding to these documents.

When a spouse or parent files a motion, they are requesting the judge to decide one or more issues.  Normally, the court will schedule a hearing where both spouses or parents or their attorneys can present their case, and then the judge will make a decision. 

Ex parte is Latin and means ‘from a side’, and it means that the judge will only listen to one party. This means that the judge will review only one party’s pleadings and sometimes listen to that party’s argument, but not take into consideration the other party’s response. 

There are two situations when you may receive an ex parte motion.  First, the court rules allow a party or the Friend of the Court to start the custody proceedings with requesting an ex parte order, and then sometime (usually a few weeks) after the entry of that order, the judge will conduct a hearing upon request or at direction from the court.   Although the court rules allow for this process, most judges do not favor this process.  Another situation when a judge may review an ex-parte order is when a party can show that “irreparable harm” will likely occur if the required notice is provided prior to a hearing. 

There are situations when an ex parte motion should be filed.  However, when a spouse or parent ‘cries wolf’ unnecessarily, that parent may lose credibility with the judge and a judge may even sanction a party for unnecessarily claiming there was imminent threat of irreparable harm.

When a spouse or parent anticipates being served with an ex parte motion, the first step is to hire an attorney immediately allowing the attorney to prepare a defense against the ex parte motion, possibly attend the ex parte proceedings, and at least immediately respond appropriately after the ex parte order has been entered.

After the entry of the ex parte order, the ex parte order may automatically become a temporary order or sometimes the judge may require a hearing a few weeks later.  Some spouses and parents have a ‘wait and see what happens’ attitude following the entry of the ex parte order and end up calling an attorney too late – when the ex parte order became a temporary or permanent order. 

The best time to call an attorney is the earliest opportunity possible.  Judges often issue ex parte orders when Child Protective Services or the police are investigating allegations.  In such situations, call an attorney before you are served with the ex parte motion or order allowing your attorney to work with you on a game plan and defense which may even avoid the ex parte order.

If you need an emergency order or need to defend against an ex parte order, Contact us online or call the attorneys at Kraayeveld Law at 616-285-0808 and allow us to work with you to prepare the best case possible.