Provisional; interim; temporary; not final; that which intervenes between the beginning and the end of a lawsuit or proceeding to either decide a particular point or matter that is not the final issue of the entire controversy or prevent irreparable harm during the pendency of the lawsuit.
Interlocutory actions are taken by courts when a QUESTION OF LAW must be answered by an appellate court before a trial may proceed or to prevent irreparable harm from occurring to a person or property during the pendency of a lawsuit or proceeding. Generally, courts are reluctant to make interlocutory orders unless the circumstances surrounding the case are serious and require timely action.
Interlocutory appeals are restricted by state and federal appellate courts because courts do not want piecemeal litigation. Appeals courts generally review only cases that have reached final judgment in the trial courts. When a court administrator enters final judgment, this certifies that the trial court has ended its review of the case and jurisdiction shifts to the appellate court.
Interlocutory appeals are typically permitted when the trial judge certifies to the appellate court in an interlocutory order that an important question of law is in doubt and that it will substantially affect the final result of the case. Judicial economy then dictates that the court resolve the issue rather than subject the parties to a trial that may be reversed on an appeal from a final judgment.
Appellate courts have the discretion to review interlocutory orders. The federal courts of appeal are governed by the Interlocutory Appeals Act (28 U.S.C.A. § 1292). This act grants discretion to the courts of appeal to review interlocutory orders in civil cases where the district judge states in the order that a controlling question of law is in doubt and that the immediate resolution of the issue will materially advance the ultimate termination of litigation. State appellate courts are governed by statutes and court rules of appellate procedure regarding the review of interlocutory orders.
When an appellate court reviews an interlocutory order, its decision on the matters contained in the order is final. The court enters an interlocutory judgment, which makes that part of the case final. Therefore, if a case proceeds to trial after an interlocutory judgment is entered, and an appeal from the trial court judgment follows, the matters decided by the interlocutory judgment cannot be reviewed by the court again.
Interlocutory orders may be issued in a DIVORCE proceeding to prevent injury or irreparable harm during the pendency of the lawsuit. For example, an interlocutory order may require one spouse to pay the other spouse a designated weekly sum for support, pending a decision on ALIMONY and CHILD SUPPORT. This prevents the spouse and children from being without income during the action.
Courts may also issue interlocutory orders where property is about to be sold or forfeited and a lawsuit has been filed seeking to stop the action. In this type of case, a court will enter an interlocutory INJUNCTION, preventing the transfer of property until it has made a final decision. To do otherwise would cause irreparable harm and would complicate legal title to the property if the person contesting the transfer ultimately prevailed.
Thus, though the courts value finality in most proceedings, interlocutory orders and appeals are available to protect important rights and to enhance judicial economy.