Under Family Code section 217, at a hearing on any request for order brought under the Family Code, absent a stipulation of the parties or a finding of good cause under (b), the court must receive any live, competent, and admissible testimony that is relevant and within the scope of the hearing.
In addition to the rules of evidence, a court must consider the following factors in making a finding of good cause to refuse to receive live testimony under Family Code section 217:
(1) Whether a substantive matter is at issue-such as child custody, visitation (parenting time), parentage, child support, spousal support, requests for restraining orders, or the characterization, division, or temporary use and control of the property or debt of the parties;
(2) Whether material facts are in controversy;
(3) Whether live testimony is necessary for the court to assess the credibility of the parties or other witnesses;
(4) The right of the parties to question anyone submitting reports or other information to the court;
(5) Whether a party offering testimony from a non-party has complied with Family Code section 217(c); and
(6) Any other factor that is just and equitable.
If the court makes a finding of good cause to exclude live testimony, it must state its reasons on the record or in writing. The court is required to state only those factors on which the finding of good cause is based.
(d) Minor children.
When receiving or excluding testimony from minor children, in addition to fulfilling the requirements of Evidence Code section 765, the court must follow the procedures in Family Code section 3042 and rule 5.250 of the California Rules of Court governing children's testimony.
(e) Witness lists.
Witness lists required by Family Code section 217(c) must be served along with the request for order or responsive papers in the manner required for the service of those documents (Witness List (form FL-321) may be used for this purpose). If no witness list has been served, the court may require an offer of proof before allowing any nonparty witness to testify.
The court must consider whether or not a brief continuance is necessary to allow a litigant adequate opportunity to prepare for questioning any witness for the other parties. When a brief continuance is granted to allow time to prepare for questioning witnesses, the court should make appropriate temporary orders.
(g) Questioning by court.
Whenever the court receives live testimony from a party or any witness it may elicit testimony by directing questions to the parties and other witnesses.
Rule 5.113 adopted effective January 1, 2013.