If you ever find yourself in a family court in California and are watching attorneys argue cases, you will almost certainly at some point hear an attorney raise an objection about late-filed or late-served papers at a Request for Order hearing.

The concern is legitimate if it prevents people from responding on time or from being able to review papers in time to respond when the court is going to make a decision. You should always follow the rules to avoid trouble. The Request for Order must be filed and served 16 court days prior to the hearing.

The problem is that in the age of email, it’s almost a certainty that the attorney raising a fuss about the papers being late (Responses are to be filed and served nine court days prior to the hearing plus five for mailing) received said papers via email, reviewed them, and is simply trying to play “gotcha” with the rule to get a technical win.

As everyone knows, a technical win is still a win, and many attorneys play that game. That being said, from the perspective of most of the judges that I go in front of, their only concern is whether you have seen the papers and whether you are prejudiced by not getting them in time. While the court has the power to strike untimely filed and served papers, I don’t see that happen a lot. What they usually do is ask the party raising the fuss if they have been prejudiced, then they ask them how, and then if they buy it, they grant a continuance. At that point, said attorney who is trying to play “gotcha” looks inexperienced, annoys the court, and then loses points for wasting the time of the court.

My advice: if you aren’t prejudiced and you don’t want a continuance, you should usually just be quiet about it.