Oral Argument On A Motion: What Does It Mean?

You have a motion or cross motion before the court. Your attorney calls
you to let you know that the court is scheduling the motion for oral argument.
Anytime you have to go to court can be stressful, but what does oral argument
on a motion actually mean?

We find that clients are very confused about oral argument. It is likely
the only time that a judge in a divorce or family law case will actually
make a decision about anything in your life. This is because 98% of all
divorces settle, meaning that a judge does not make any decisions about
how to resolve your case. However, in a divorce, sometimes a judge is
called upon to make a decision about temporary custody, support or other
issues. This is done through the filing of a motion.

Oral argument is typically heard on Fridays. In some counties, the judge
will send a preliminary or tentative decision to the parties and attorneys
a day or two before oral argument. This will set forth what the judge
believes should be ordered based upon what he or she read in the motion
papers. If you do not renew your request for oral argument after reviewing
that tentative decision, you have waived oral argument and the court will
enter the tentative decision as a final Order. Other times, the court
does not provide a tentative decision and oral argument required if either
party requested it.

Oral argument is an opportunity for the attorneys to argue your case and
for the judge to ask questions. We find that the biggest misconception
is that oral argument is not a hearing, meaning that there is no testimony
from the clients. In addition, the court is not supposed to consider any
information that was not included in the motion papers. Oral argument
is really just an opportunity to explain to the court why you are entitled
to the relief set forth in your motion. One thing that we stress to our
clients is that an oral argument is really not the right venue for grandstanding,
as the judge has already read the papers and usually already knows what
he or she is going to order before either attorney opens their mouth.

An oral argument is not an opportunity to have your “day in court.”
It is largely a conversation between the judge and the attorneys to clarify
points in the papers you have already filed.
if you have any questions on the motion process or oral argument.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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