A temporary domestic order is a type of document that is issued by a court in relation to various family law proceedings. They are typically granted in connection with a divorce, marital dissolution, or legal separation hearing, and usually, done with a sense of urgency.

The main purpose of a temporary domestic order is to provide immediate protections or to ensure some portion of the matter is temporarily put on hold. For example, if one spouse fears that the other spouse is going to withdraw all the money from a bank account before their divorce is finalized, a temporary domestic order can prevent that from happening.

Essentially, temporary domestic orders are instructions from the court that direct both parties on how to act in regard to any issues that were raised during the divorce, dissolution, or legal separation proceeding.

Although temporary domestic orders can instruct the parties to behave in a certain manner towards the other spouse or children, they are different than and should not be confused with restraining orders or protective orders. Restraining orders mostly involve protecting the victims in domestic abuse cases.

What is Included in a Temporary Domestic Order?

In general, temporary domestic orders generally describe the final results of different legal issues that were resolved during a divorce or legal separation lawsuit. These results may include:

  • Which spouses are responsible for what form of debt (e.g., taxes or credit card bills);
  • Prohibitions on hiding communal marital property or for disposing of assets in order to reduce the amount of any necessary support payments (e.g., alimony or child support);
  • Instructions regarding how to manage joint accounts, joint insurance packages, shared credit cards, and so forth;
  • Whether the parties are permitted to take any children that they may have out of state, and if so, the procedures that the parties must follow before travelling out of state with them; and
  • Prohibitions on harassment or stalking the other spouse in the marital relationship.

Thus, every temporary domestic order will have different or unique content because it will depend on the needs of the parties, as well as what was discussed during the proceedings.

Additionally, each state has separate laws concerning divorce and legal separation. Issues involving child custody, child support, and visitation rights, may be addressed in a separate custody agreement, however, sometimes these provisions may be included in a temporary domestic order instead. In such a scenario, the temporary domestic order will eventually require a court to issue a permanent decision.

How is a Temporary Domestic Order Obtained?

As previously mentioned, a temporary domestic order is typically issued during the formal legal proceedings in a divorce or legal separation. If a matter arises that needs to be addressed immediately, a party may request that the court grant such an order.

After the court rules on the specific matter that is being requested, the results will be included in the contents of the temporary domestic order, which will then serve as a guide for the parties. It will instruct them on what actions the parties can or cannot do until a permanent decision is made. A lawyer is typically needed at this stage to help a party file and review all of the different court documents.

In some cases, the parties may have formed a separation agreement outside of the courtroom or before the proceedings even started that may address an urgent issue. These agreements, however, may not be enforceable until the parties present them to a judge. Once presented and approved by the court, a judge can officially transform them into a legally enforceable temporary domestic order.

What Happens If a Temporary Domestic Order is Violated?

In general, temporary domestic orders that are signed by a judge are enforceable under law, but true to their name, they will only provide temporary protections until the proceedings have concluded.

Temporary domestic orders can also be modified in the future if necessary, however, the modifications must be done with a judge’s permission.

When a temporary domestic order is violated, it can have serious legal consequences, such as being held in contempt of court or even jail time. Additionally, certain rights and privileges may be revoked due to a violation (e.g., child custody and visitation rights).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Issues Regarding a Temporary Domestic Order?

If you have any questions or concerns, or alternatively, need assistance in obtaining, reviewing, or challenging a temporary domestic order, you should strongly consider contacting a local family law attorney.

A qualified attorney can provide you with legal guidance and representation during court hearings, and can research the various laws that my apply in your particular state. Additionally, hiring an attorney may also prove useful in the event that you need assistance modifying a temporary domestic order.