What is the Automatic Temporary Restraining Order?

Understanding the Family Law Automatic Restraining Orders or ATROs

Emotions run high when it comes to a divorce proceeding. The parties may be hurt and may wish to do something to hurt the other party, such as clearing out the bank account, kicking the other party out of the home or making decisions regarding the parties’ children that are meant to punish the other parent.

The family law Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, or ATROs as they are commonly referred to, are meant to prevent these types of actions from happening and can be extremely helpful when protecting the assets and other important aspects of a person’s divorce case. ATROs are commonly confused with domestic violence restraining orders. In fact, the two are very different and separate. ATROs are exactly what they state. They are automatic. Upon filing for divorce, the summons issued will include the ATROs. However, a domestic violence restraining order, or DVRO, needs to be requested and protects against domestic violence.

Access to the Parties’ Minor Children

Once a divorce proceeding has been initiated, and the case involves minor children, both spouses are prohibited from “obstructing or interfering with” the other parent’s parenting time or communication with the minor children. If, however, a domestic violence restraining order is in place against one parent to protect the child, then access can be limited.

Additionally, spouses are required to refrain from “disparaging, denigrating or otherwise speaking ill of” the other parent in the presence of the minor children.

Real Estate or Personal Property

Automatic temporary restraining orders can also be of big benefit in protecting the parties’ property. Each spouse is prohibited from selling, damaging, disposing of, hiding or otherwise encumbering property that is owned by either spouse or a child of the marriage without the consent of the other spouse. Property includes the home, other real estate, cars, jewelry, money in bank accounts and other items of personal property.

Automatic temporary restraining orders prevent either spouse from making any unusual withdrawals from personal bank accounts during the divorce, but this does not mean the parties cannot continue to spend their regular wages or incomes as they would normally for purpose of daily expenses.

Spouses are also prohibited from removing items of tangible personal property from the home other than the spouse’s own personal effects, including clothing and books, equipment, or papers incidental to the conduct of that spouse’s business, trade or profession.

Changing Insurance Beneficiaries

Automatic temporary restraining orders also keep spouses from terminating, modifying the terms of or changing the beneficiaries of insurance policies, including health, home, car, life and other insurance policies that cover either spouse or the children.

The final order will deal with these issues, but the court prohibits one spouse from making these unilateral decisions before the divorce is final.

Retirement or Pension Plans

In addition, during the divorce proceedings, parties cannot also cash in, borrow against or do any extraordinary measure that could seriously affect their retirement or pension accounts. These assets are significant marital property, and the court will deal with them in the final division of assets.

If one of the parties has been receiving regular payments from a plan, he or she can still continue to receive those payments as normal, but no extraordinary measures or changes can be taken that would affect these accounts.

Joint Debt

Automatic temporary restraining orders also prohibit spouses from encumbering the other spouse with large amounts of debt. This prohibition includes debt in the spouse’s joint names or in the other spouse’s name, and it does also include credit card debt.

Exceptions to the Rule

Certain exceptions do exist, of course, to automatic temporary restraining orders. The parties are allowed to use property to pay for reasonable legal fees for the matter. However, the court may account for these funds when assets or debts are divided in the final order.

Parties are also allowed to create, modify or revoke a will or unfunded trust, as desired. Notice of these changes must be made to the other spouse, if he or she is affected by these modifications.

Parties can also severe or eliminate a right of survivorship to property during the course of the dissolution action, so long as it is not considered a violation of the automatic temporary restraining orders and a notice of the change is filed and served on the other party before the change takes effect.

Modification of Restraining Orders

These automatic restraining orders are temporary and are meant to end at the end of the divorce proceedings. However, before the parties are formally divorced, either party may apply to the court to modify, expand or revoke any of the automatic temporary restraining orders. These changes can be done only with court approval and only last until the divorce is finalized.

Contact The Voss Law Office Today!

If you are going through a difficult divorce proceeding and have questions about how to protect your property and rights, contact us today to discuss the best options for your case. Consultations are always free. Call us today at 323-333-4481.