Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders in Divorce

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What are Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders?

Many people think restraining orders are only relevant in situations where people are trying to protect themselves from harassment or violence from another person.  Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, often referred to as “ATROs”, are a different type of restraining order.  ATROs automatically go into effect when a petition for divorce or separation is filed with a court.

ATROs prohibit spouses from engaging in certain activities while their petition for divorce or separation is pending with a court.  In a nutshell, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders are a way for the legal system to establish a code of conduct for spouses who are in the midst of a separation or divorce by limiting their ability make major rash decisions regarding children of the marriage or assets of the couple.

When are ATROs effective?

Automatic temporary restraining orders are effective immediately upon the service and filing of the summons for divorce or separation. The orders serve to protect each parties’ interests and rights regarding their assets and children. ATROs specifically prevent taking children of the marriage out-of-state without prior consent of the other party or court order.

The orders also prohibit either party from transferring, concealing, or disposing of any personal or real property – whether it is separate, quasi community or community, without the consent of the other party or court order. The only exception is for the spending and disposing of any assets that are part of a couple’s normal course of business or for the necessity of day-to-day life.

Couples may not make changes to insurance policies, bank accounts, or adjusting beneficiaries while divorce or separation proceedings are in-process.

Violation of ATROs

Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders are a mutual court order which means that both spouses are required to follow the orders. Courts will not notify banks or other financial institutions used by the couple to notify them of the pending divorce or separation. Rather, it is the duty of the couple to follow the orders.

So, what happens if a spouse violates the ATRO? Many people are surprised to learn that a violation of ATROs is considered a criminal offense. And the court will hold a spouse in violation of ATRO in contempt. Just another reason why it is so important that both parties play by the rules during divorce or separation proceedings!

Examples of ATRO Violations during Divorce

You receive some cash before the court finalizes the settlement, for living expenses, and this goes into your checking account.  If you want to transfer that money elsewhere, like an investment, you need to get approval from your spouse first.

If you and your ex- (soon-to-be ex-) have not finalized child custody issues, and you wish to take your child to another state, perhaps to visit family, you must get your ex’s permission.

These requirements go both ways.  Your ex- will need to get your permission as well to do these things.

How to complete your Divorce Papers in California

SquareFairy helps couples prepare their initial divorce papers for free. Start your ready-to-file California Divorce papers here.

Candice Saadian Costa

Candice Saadian Costa, who runs Golden Gate Mediation in San Francisco, is a California licensed attorney who has dedicated her legal career to working with families in high-conflict. Serving as both a litigator and mediator, Candice represents both parents and minors in high conflict juvenile dependency matters and mediation services to couples facing divorce. In her family law mediation practice, Candice strives to enforce the idea that the divorce process can be navigated through with dignity and does not have to become a drawn-out, expensive and adversarial process. Candice respects each of her clients’ unique situations and tailors her services accordingly. She is committed to always maintaining impartiality and fairness to each party.