How Restraining Orders Impact Divorce

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The divorce process is often contentious and emotional and will likely involve at least one type of restraining order. There are different kinds of restraining orders that are issued by the family courts and it’s important to understand how they work and how it impacts you and your family.

Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs)

These are the most common restraining orders that are put in place after a spouse has initiated a divorce to ensure the dissolution process proceeds smoothly. At the start of every divorce action in California, the court issues an ATRO. The Order establishes ground rules while the case is pending.  Spouses are notified of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Order when they receive divorce papers. These orders are put in place to prevent spouses from taking vindictive actions such as:

  • Selling property or shared assets such as a home or a car
  • Moving children out of the home or state
  • Moving money out of joint bank accounts
  • Cancelling utilities
  • Changing insurance policies or healthcare coverage
  • Changing the beneficiaries of living wills and trusts
  • Excessive spending
  • Borrowing on joint assets
  • Withdrawing from retirement accounts

ATROs are temporary and only last during the duration of the divorce process. Once you’ve reached an agreement on how to divide assets the ATRO dissolves and your ex-spouse is free to continue with any plans that do not violate your divorce settlement.

Protective Order / Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A protective order also referred to in California as a domestic violence restraining order, can be requested during a divorce case to ensure protection from one party who is suffering serious emotional or physical harm from the other. This order can set limits on a partner’s behavior if there are reasonable grounds to fear violence against a spouse or their children. While it’s possible to seek a restraining order from the court without a lawyer, it’s wise to seek an attorney’s help in completing proper paperwork and getting it in front of a judge for a hearing. The judge will hear from the spouse who is filing for the order and either grant a restraining order or deny it. Victims of domestic violence may request that the court issue a restraining order to prevent further abuse. A parent may also apply for the order on behalf of a child. A violation of a domestic violence prevention order is a criminal offense and can result in immediate arrest and can restrain future abusive conduct.

Emergency Protective Order

If abuse is imminent and the courts are not open, a victim of domestic violence may request the help of law enforcement to obtain an Emergency Protective Order (EPO). The law enforcement officer must specifically request that a judicial officer issue the EPO which remains in effect for a brief period of time in order to allow the victim to file for a restraining order through the courts.

An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through the challenges associated with various restraining orders and offer advice and advocacy.

By Debra Schoenberg

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