A domestic order refers to a document issued by a court in connection with various family law proceedings. The most common family law proceedings that produce a domestic order are divorce, dissolution of marriage, and legal separation hearings. Domestic orders generally contain specific instructions regarding any issues that were raised during the legal proceedings.
Some examples of what a domestic order generally covers include:

  • Which spouses are responsible for which specific, various forms of debt, such as who is responsible for credit card debt and who is responsible for any taxes or tax debt;
  • Instructions regarding how joint accounts or insurance packages, shared credit cards, etc are to be divided or handled;
  • Whether the parties will be allowed to take their shared children out of state, and if so, what procedures should be following when doing so;
  • Any specific prohibitions regarding hiding communal marital property or disposing assets in order reduce any ordered support payments; and/or
  • Prohibitions regarding harassment or stalking either spouse.

How is a Domestic Order Different from a Restraining Order?

A restraining order, or a protective order, is a type of court order typically issued for the safety of one party when the other party has harmed them. A restraining order instructs the offender to do, or stop doing something.

An example of this would be ordering the offender to stay one thousand feet away from the victim, or for the offender to cease all contact with the victim altogether. Restraining or protective orders are most common in situations involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Such orders may also be issued to prevent further emotional or economic harm.

Domestic orders and restraining orders are similar in that they provide instructions to people involved in a legal dispute. However, their necessity and purpose are very different from each other. A domestic order generally intends to establish rules before anyone gets hurt, while a restraining or protective order typically intends to cease harm before someone gets hurt again.

How Do You Get a Domestic Order?

Each domestic order obtained will be different as they contain specific instructions for each individual case. Domestic orders are dependent on the needs of the parties involved as well as what was discussed during the legal proceedings.

It is also important to remember that each state may have different laws regarding divorce and separation, including how to obtain a domestic order. Issues involving child support and custody, as well as visitation rights, may be contained in a separate custody agreement. Additionally, such provisions may be contained in a domestic order.

As previously discussed, a domestic order is generally issued as part of the formal legal proceedings involving divorce or legal separation. It contains the results of negotiations and legal analysis, and determines what the parties can and cannot do in the long run.

As such, in order to obtain a domestic order, the parties will need to first begin divorce or separation proceedings. An attorney may be necessary to file and review all of the different court procedures and documents.

Some parties can put together a separation agreement outside of court, or before the proceedings start. A separation agreement terminates the rights of cohabitation between the parties, but does not legally dissolve the marriage. Therefore, with separation agreements the marital status of the couple remains intact.

Additionally, a separation agreement may contain similar provisions as a domestic order regarding the management of bills and debt. A separation agreement may not be enforceable until the parties present the agreement to a judge, who may then finalize the agreement into a legally enforceable domestic order.

What Happens if Domestic Orders are Violated?

As domestic orders are court ordered, failure to adhere to them could result in being held in contempt of court. Other consequences could include certain rights and privileges being revoked, such as child custody and visitation rights.

In general, domestic orders that are signed by a judge are considered final and are enforceable by law. Domestic orders can usually be modified if justified in the future. However, this must also be done with a judge’s permission.

What Else Should I Know About Domestic Orders?

Domestic orders may also be known as temporary domestic orders. Temporary domestic orders only provide protections until the proceedings have concluded. Should a matter arise during formal legal proceedings that needs to be resolved immediately, one of the involved parties may request that the court grant such an order.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help With a Domestic Order?

Should you need a domestic order, or need to have one reviewed, it would be in your best interest to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable family attorney.

As mentioned above, the divorce and/or separation processes are complicated, and family laws vary according to individual state laws. Domestic lawsuits involve filings, hearings, and sometimes intense negotiations.

An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws, as well as what your rights and legal options are. The attorney will ensure all necessary paperwork is filed on time, and handle any necessary motions or restraining orders. Finally, an attorney will represent you in court as needed.