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Temporary Restraining Orders

Temporary Restraining Order

A temporary restraining order (TRO) or temporary protective order is a court order signed by a judge. It requires someone to stop harming or stalking you and is ideal for those involved in cases of domestic violence.

To obtain a TRO against someone who is abusing you, it is not necessary to have a domestic violence case pending in court.  In most states, if you are subject to domestic violence, threats of domestic violence, or stalking, you may apply for legal protection.

Ending a marriage is usually a highly charged and emotional process. Sometimes, the action is well planned in advance while other times it may be a last minute, drastic decision. One of the challenges of the period leading up to filing to end the marriage (thus kicking off the legal process) is the inability to control, or even be aware of, actions planned in advance by the moving party, to create an advantage, unbalanced or unfair scenario. For instance, prior to filing, the moving party might:

  • Max out joint credit cards.
  • Stop paying household bills.
  • Change minor children schedules.
  • Withdraw or transfer money from joint accounts to individual accounts.
  • Sell personal property or possessions from the marital home.

Once the action is filed, though, an automatic stay is triggered…thus suspending the parties from engaging certain behaviors, especially ones tied to finances, assets, property and minor children. It is important to note, though, that the automatic stays may be limited and don’t require one spouse to pay bills, support minor children, or even prevent one parent from denying the other parent access to the minor children.

Although the time it takes for the legal process of ending a marriage to finalize varies from state to state, it will generally take at least three or more months of time. During that time, it may be necessary to have temporary orders in place to address such factors as custody, visitation, support, and use of property. These orders are pendent lite orders which means “pending a final decree”.

Temporary orders are generally filed after the petition has been filed and served and are limited to matters the court can undo at a later date if necessary. For some matters, some orders prevent spouses from disposing of or selling assets until the court can address distribution of property and assets. This process is called an injunction or stay.

Temporary orders are designed to remain in effect until the divorce is finalized. Think of it as preserving the status quo until a final decision can be made or the parties are able to come to an agreement on the specific issues.

The following are examples of issues that may be addressed in a temporary order:

  • The amount of child support to be paid
  • If and who will pay spousal support
  • Custody and visitation arrangements
  • The party responsible for providing health insurance
  • Whether a guardian ad litem is needed for the children
  • Which party will be able to live in the marital home
  • Who will pay the mortgage or rent
  • How household items will be split
  • Who will be responsible for credit card payments

In essence, the only way to protect your parental and financial rights is to obtain a temporary order which outlines both party’s responsibilities during the duration of the divorce. This means that you will be required to file a motion for temporary orders and subsequently have to appear a hearing for the court to review the request. These hearings are generally heard within sixty days of filing the motion, so it is important to file the motion as soon as you are permitted (often with the Petition for Divorce). In some extreme situations, a party can request an expedited hearing within a few days of the motion being filed. For instance, if the other party stops paying bills or denies access to the minor children.