Preserve your plenary rights
There’s that word again — “plenary” — but what does it mean? A plenary hearing or plenary trial refers to a full, complete and total legal proceeding in which you are given the right to testify, to call witnesses on your behalf, to cross-examine other witnesses, to offer documentary evidence and to make legal arguments. Unlike a short motion hearing, a full plenary hearing is generally slower, longer and more complicated.
It is also generally fairer, especially to the parent less likely to win custody in a quick motion at the Family Court. A plenary hearing provides the maximum amount of due process, enabling each party to persuade the judge to consider documents and photographs admitted into evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, and to weigh the various legal arguments for and against custody and visitation rights.
..And that is why today’s tip is to request a plenary hearing as early as possible. When you first file your custody petition or other pleadings, or when you file motion papers, be sure to request a plenary hearing, in order to preserve your right to present all of the evidence in your favor.
Not every state will authorize a plenary hearing for every case, and often the facts are so clear that a plenary hearing is simply not necessary. But where the issues of custody and parenting time are truly in conflict, be sure to ask for a plenary proceeding, and then begin gathering evidence, organizing witnesses and building your case.
Otherwise, you may find yourself getting a hasty order from an overworked judge, who hasn’t yet heard all of the facts of your case.