What are Temporary Orders and Why do You Need them?

By Danielle C. Davis, Esq.

                Every domestic relations case is different and every potential new client brings a unique set of facts to the office when they sit down for an initial consultation. Their case may encompass a short-term or long-term marriage, there may or may not be children involved, and the financial situation of the parties may be simple or complex. Regardless of the complexity of a client’s case, there are relatively few rules and guidelines automatically put in place to assist the parties with coordinating their financial and parental responsibilities during the pendency of their case. As a result, some clients will need to seek temporary orders from the Court.

                Temporary orders are meant to establish rules for the parties regarding the payment of debts, use of property, maintenance and child support obligations, allocation of parental responsibilities, and the payment of attorney fees between the date that the case is filed and the date of permanent or final orders. Typically, a party may seek temporary orders by filing a motion with the Court, followed by a hearing on the issues in dispute and a ruling by a Judge. Temporary orders may also be entered by agreement of the parties.

                Regardless of the method used, temporary orders can help to diffuse conflict between the parties, as they provide a black letter rulebook at a time when the parties may be unable to agree about the payment of their financial obligations and/or how to coordinate parental responsibilities. Temporary orders are enforceable by the court, and, if not followed, may result in contempt sanctions against the violating party including fines and/or imprisonment.

                Importantly, temporary orders are exactly as they appear; temporary. They automatically terminate upon the Court’s entry of permanent or final orders. Temporary orders serve the purpose of providing guidance to the parties while the case is ongoing, but do not necessarily reflect the ultimate outcome of a family law case. For example, the temporary orders may provide that Wife will have exclusive use and possession of the marital home during the pendency of the case, yet the Court may ultimately decide in its permanent orders that Husband will receive the martial home outright or that the marital home is to be sold and the proceeds divided between the parties.

                Finally, temporary orders are a useful tool that should be thoroughly considered by potential clients and discussed during an initial consultation. Potential clients should consider their financial and parental obligations, realistically assess their ability to reach agreements with their spouse during the pendency of their case, and be prepared to ask questions and openly discuss these concerns with their attorney.