A court order is a judge-issued statement (either spoken or written) that instructs someone to either perform a specific action/s or refrain from doing so. They can be used in all different kinds of legal situations and in both civil and criminal court proceedings. Examples include search warrants, lawsuit rulings, execution stays, and gag orders.
However, the average person is most likely to deal with court orders in a family law setting, and there are many court orders that judges can use depending on the situation. So what are the different types of court orders that you may see in a family court, and how do you go about getting one?
There are a lot of different types of orders that can come into play in a divorce or family law case. These can be broken into two broad categories for explanation purposes. The first category has to do with the amount of time that the order will be in effect. This can be a temporary and short term order, or a longer-lasting, more permanent one that takes more effort to repeal or change.
The second category is whether the court order assigns duties and responsibilities or attempts to control a family member’s physical location.
Family law court orders can be temporary or more permanent depending on the situation and circumstances of a particular case. Temporary orders can be either in writing or issued verbally by the judge. They are intended to be in effect for the short term only, usually until a full hearing or trial can happen on the matter. The most commonly known order is the Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO.
A TRO is usually meant to stop spouses from selling or destroying marital property during the process of a divorce, but it can also limit other things like travel. If there are immediate safety or flight concerns, a judge might be asked to issue an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) or a Child Protection Order (CPO) to help head off any domestic violence issues and protect other family members. These temporary orders are made to expire, but can be extended if circumstances warrant it.
Orders that are meant to last longer are put in writing and usually issued at the end of any legal proceedings. These types of orders need evidence to back them up and are not meant to be issued under emergency circumstances. Types of court orders that represent this are divorce decrees, child support orders, and child custody and visitation orders. These are meant to be more permanent, although they can be changed down the road if necessary.
Another way we can classify family court orders is by seeing what action they are attempting to either have performed or stopped. A court order that directs someone’s physical presence can be either temporary or permanent. For example, the emergency protective court orders mentioned above are a common way that a family court can direct where someone can or cannot be.
Restraining orders limiting how close one spouse can be to another (or to the children) are common temporary measures that a judge might issue, especially if there is a history or threat of domestic violence involved. But they can be more permanent as well. Child visitation orders can contain directions to where a non-custodial spouse can visit their children. Custody orders detail where a child will stay during what parts of the year, and sometimes even specifies where and at what time exchanges will be made.
On the other side are orders that tell a spouse/parent what rights and duties they will have once a divorce is final, or for the interim while the process is ongoing. Child support and spousal support are two common court orders of this type. TROs can also fall into this category by ordering someone to cease selling, destroying, or spending community property funds.
A court order can be issued in a court setting or outside a setting through petition. For the first, a judge will consider all the facts in a trial or hearing. Once both sides are heard, they will issue a decision and make it legal through the appropriate order. Non-courtroom petitions are heard by a judge outside of a hearing or trial. They are only issued if there is an emergency or time-sensitive situation that needs to be addressed immediately. These orders tend to be temporary ones.
The point behind getting a court order is that legal consequences result if it is not followed. If someone violates the terms of a court order they will be held in contempt of court, which can result in fines and even some jail time. Violators may also be forced to pay attorney’s fees for the other party.
An experienced family law attorney is the best person to help you get a court order as quickly and efficiently as possible. They know where to file petitions and what forms are necessary. They can also be your advocate before the court and present your argument in the strongest manner possible.