California's Laws on Ex Parte Orders in Family Court.

Understanding Ex Parte Orders in California Family Court

In family law disputes, the need for immediate court intervention can arise when one party believes that waiting for a standard hearing would result in irreparable harm. In such cases, California courts may issue ex parte orders, which are legal directives made by a judge without the usual notice to the other party or a formal hearing. This article delves into the nuances of ex parte orders in California's family court, their application, and historical contexts that have shaped their current use.

What Are Ex Parte Orders?

Ex parte orders are emergency legal orders issued when a judge is convinced that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition. These orders can cover various issues, including but not limited to child custody, protection from domestic violence, and temporary control of property.

Procedure for Obtaining an Ex Parte Order

To obtain an ex parte order in California, the requesting party must file an application supported by an affidavit detailing the necessity of such an order. The applicant must typically give notice to the other party at least 24 hours before the ex parte hearing unless they can demonstrate that providing notice would frustrate the purpose of the order or that it's impossible to provide such notice.

Historical Reference: The Landmark Case of In re Marriage of Stephen G.

An illustrative case highlighting the gravity of ex parte orders is In re Marriage of Stephen G., where an ex parte order was used to temporarily alter custody arrangements based on urgent circumstances. This case underscored the balance courts must maintain between addressing immediate dangers and safeguarding the rights of both parties to participate in the legal process.

Restrictions and Limitations

California law sets forth strict guidelines for issuing ex parte orders. Judges are required to consider all relevant evidence and must adhere to principles ensuring fairness and due process. The duration of these orders is typically limited until a full hearing can be held, at which point both parties have the opportunity to present their arguments.

The Significance of Ex Parte Orders

Ex parte orders serve as crucial instruments for protecting individuals and children from immediate harm. Their expedited nature allows courts to respond swiftly in situations where delay could result in serious consequences. However, their potential impact on individual rights necessitates a judicious application.


In California family court, ex parte orders represent a vital yet cautiously employed mechanism for providing prompt judicial relief. While they are essential for addressing urgent risks, they also reflect a broader commitment to due process and equal treatment under the law.