If you are going through the initial stages of a divorce in California, there are a few things that happen that are important to know. Among them is the fact that very early in the process, a series of temporary restraining orders (TROs) automatically go into effect.
An important thing to note up front is that these are not the restraining orders most people are familiar with. While a judge may sign a protective restraining order when there are concerns about domestic violence, that is a different matter. The automatic TROs that apply to all California divorces primarily concern making changes that could affect the outcome of a divorce settlement.
When someone is involved in a divorce, automatic TROs prevent them from doing any of the following:
- Moving minor children out of state or the country, or applying for a child’s passport without the consent of the other spouse or a court order.
- Altering an insurance policy in any manner when it’s held for the benefit of a spouse or minor children. Insurance policies include health, life, automobile, disability, and other such types of insurance.
- Selling, gifting, concealing, or taking out a loan against any real estate or personal property items without a spouse’s consent and/or a court order. There may be an exception when doing so is in the usual course of business or to afford basic necessities of life.
- Creating or altering a non-probate transfer of estate property (such as creating a revocable or irrevocable trust) without the other spouse’s consent or a court order.
In addition to these orders, either spouse is required to inform the other of any proposed extraordinary expenses at least five business days prior to purchasing. If any such purchases were made after the restraining orders went into effect, then the court must be notified.
What Is the Purpose of Automatic TROs?
As you likely noticed, the TROs affect a couple’s children and property. It’s no coincidence that these two factors make up the bulk of a divorce settlement. The automatic TROs’ overall purpose is to ensure that neither spouse takes drastic action that will affect the rights of the other spouse.
Because divorces can be very contentious, one party may try to flee to another state or even out of the country to keep their children, whether out of concern for their welfare or out of spite. A vindictive spouse might try to remove the other or even his or her children from insurance policies that protect them and permit them access to important benefits. A spouse might also try to flush the bank accounts or hide assets to make sure the other spouse gets as little of the community property as possible.
All of these scenarios are what the automatic TROs are trying to prevent. In doing so, they protect the likelihood that a fair divorce settlement is reached in the end.
When Do Automatic TROs Go Into Effect?
Automatic TROs go into effect at different times for each spouse. For the initiating spouse, the orders go into effect on the date that they file for divorce. The receiving spouse is not subject to the automatic TROs until he or she has been severed with divorce papers.
Automatic TROs stay in effect until one of the following occurs:
- A judge modifies or nullifies an order
- Divorce proceedings are dismissed
- The divorce is finalized
What Can People Do While Their Divorce Is Ongoing?
The purpose of automatic TROs is to protect each spouse’s rights and prevent either from inappropriate attempting altering the outcome of a divorce settlement. That said, it is not the purpose of these orders to interfere with the spouses’ everyday lives.
When automatic TROs are in effect, spouses can do the following:
- Take their children on vacation within California
- Purchase or sell items that would ordinarily be purchased or sold
- Revoking, altering, or creating a will
Note that many of the automatic TROs place restrictions when one spouse doesn’t have the other’s consent. It’s possible for spouses to engage in some activities otherwise prevents by the restraining orders when they have each other’s consent. This might be the case if a couple has agreed to sell their home or any other high-value assets while the divorce is ongoing.
Do You Need Help with Your Divorce?
Whether you are initiating a divorce or have just been served with papers, it’s important to acquire experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Protecting your rights during the early stages of a divorce can help you ensure that the settlement you receive at the end is fair to your needs.
We at Claery & Hammond, LLP can provide knowledgeable and skilled legal support to clients at any stage of divorce and until theirs is finalized. When we represent clients, we strive to ensure their interests are fairly accounted for during the process and that the system treats them fairly.