What Exactly Does the Term Ex-Parte Mean?

By Richard A. Marcus, ESQ.


Want to sound smart around all of your friends? Try throwing around the word “ex- parte” a few times. Ex parte is latin, for the term “one party.” Here’s how it is used:

Let’s say that you are involved in a family law case, for example, and you need something right away from the court. In our example, your spouse has just informed you that he or she is leaving California to move to Outer Mongolia with your child.

The normal procedure by which you would ask the court for something would be an Order To Show Cause” or a noticed motion. Typically, you submit your papers to the filing clerk and will get a hearing date 30 to 40 days later Sometimes it’s a lot longer. The other side is thus provided with notice and an opportunity to submit written opposition to your papers and both parties appear before the Judge to assert their respective positions on the date of the hearing.

The general rule is that neither side is allowed to have a “one sided” communication with the Judge. Both sides should be present for any contact with the Court. An ex parte communication is a very important exception to this general rule. It is however important to note that both sides usually wind up being present in front of the Judge anyway because the rule is that absent a showing of exceptional circumstances, the person seeking ex parte relief is required to give all other parties notice no later than 10:00 a.m. the court day before the ex parte appearance.

The most common example of an exceptional circumstances is when you want to ‘freeze” someone’s bank account before they withdraw the money and you can clearly establish your entitlement to such relief. Obviously if you told that person you were going into court tomorrow to freeze the account, the chances of the money being there the next day would be non-existent. Thus, if you explained to the Judge the reason why you did not provide notice to the other side, and the excuse is acceptable, you would have true “one sided” relief. On the other hand, if the Judge does not think your excuse is reasonable enough, your application for relief will be denied.

But, getting back to our earlier example, since you can’t wait 30 to 40 days to get help from the Judge, you would appear “ex parte” the very next day. A few judges might even permit you to appear the same day.

One more word on ex parte’s. They can also be used to obtain an order shortening the time for a hearing. In our example, if the Judge’s first available date is 30 days from now, you can appear ex parte and ask the Judge to specially set your matter early so that it gets heard well before the 30 days.

For questions about ex parte’s and all of your litigation and family law needs, contact the Law Offices of Richard A. Marcus (661) 257-8877.