Getting Started — Do You Need a Temporary Restraining Order?

By Curran Skinner

The divorce process starts with the filing of a document called the original petition for divorce.  Original petitions can range in complexity, depending on the type and scope of case you have and what type of relief you are requesting.

Two major areas that must be dealt with in a divorce are the division of property and children’s issues.  These issues must be stated in the petition, along with your intentions for what you want to happen with regard to each.

When we are first getting started and filing the petition, it is sometimes very difficult to predict how your spouse will react when he or she is “served” with the petition.  “Serving” is when the process server hands your spouse the petition and a citation, and your spouse has formally been given notice of the divorce action.  Sometimes it is necessary to include what we call a temporary restraining order (TRO) with the original petition for divorce in order to provide protection for yourself, your children and your assets.

What a TRO does is essentially take a snapshot of the way things are now.  It basically freezes the status quo until you and your spouse can get into court for a temporary orders hearing.  In general, a TRO basically requires that your spouse does not dispose of any assets before they can be divided by the court; requires your spouse to act civilly toward you and not threaten or harass you or the children; restrains your spouse from interfering with your use of your vehicle and your mail; restrains your spouse from cutting off your utilities, credit cards or insurance; and restrains your spouse from hiding your children from you or taking them out of the school in which they are currently enrolled.

A TRO is only good for 14 days and is granted without a hearing and without notice to your spouse.  Therefore, when requesting a TRO, it is necessary for us to set a hearing date with the court within two weeks to establish the TRO as a temporary injunction.  Typically, after the initial hearing, the restraints contained in a TRO become a mutual temporary injunction, and the same restrictions apply to both parties.  The intent of the temporary injunction is to preserve the property and the peace between the parties during the pendency of the divorce.

It is important to speak with your attorney about the facts and details of your own individual case to determine whether a TRO is necessary to accompany your original divorce petition.  Each case is unique, and your attorney will help you determine what safeguards need to be put into place to protect yourself, your children and your assets during this difficult time.

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