Seeking Temporary Orders in a Domestic Relations Case

A temporary order is a court order that provides a party certain rights and/or protections before completion of the divorce, separation or parentage action. A party may request a temporary order at any time between the time the Summons and Petition is filed and the day the proceeding is final. To obtain a temporary order, a party must file a Motion for Temporary Orders, other necessary pleadings as required by court rules, and provide the other party with notice to respond to the motion. The amount of notice a party must provide prior to the hearing on temporary orders varies from county to county.

To evaluate whether one should seek a temporary order, consider the following questions:

• Are you happy with the way things are going right now without the temporary order? Do you need to ask the court for help to require the other party to do something, or to stop doing something?

• Do you require a temporary parenting plan to determine how much time the children will spend with you or the other party until the divorce is completed? Until there is a court order, each parent has an equal right to residential time with the children. A parenting plan can also give a party scheduled visitation with the children if you are being denied visitation.

• Do you need restraining orders that require the other party not to harass or come near you?

• Do you need restraining orders to prevent another parent from taking the children out of state?

• Do you need restraining orders that prevent the other party from giving away or selling property, or taking out loans in both of your names, or taking your name off of insurance policies?

• Do you need orders for temporary child support, maintenance (spousal support), attorney’s fees, or use of property (such as a house or car)?

• Do you need an order that permits you to live in the family home and to remove the other party from the family home?

• Do you want the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) or parenting evaluator to do an investigation and make recommendations to the court about which parent the children should live with and whether the other parent poses a risk to the children?

If you have responded in the affirmative to any of the above questions, you should seriously consider seeking temporary orders. As part of the temporary orders, you may seek provisions that prevent economic and/or physical harm – by one spouse or mutually. Restraints against dissipating assets, maintaining insurance coverage, and related matters may be included in a temporary order.

NOTE:  In Snohomish County, the Court automatically issues a Temporary Order upon the filing of a Summons and Petition for Dissolution, Legal Separation, Invalidity, Committed Intimate Relationship or state registered Domestic Partnership that includes the following provisions:

A. The parties shall be restrained from transferring, removing, encumbering, concealing, damaging, or in any way disposing of any property except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life or as agreed in writing by the parties. Each party shall notify the other party of any extraordinary expenditure made after the order is issued.

B. The parties shall be restrained from assigning, transferring, borrowing, lapsing, surrendering, or changing entitlement of any insurance policies of either or both parties, or of any dependent children whether medical, health, life, or auto insurance, except as agreed in writing by the parties.

C. Each party shall be immediately responsible for his or her own future debts whether incurred by credit card, loan, security interest, or mortgage, except as agreed in writing by the parties.

Importantly, the period of time between when the opposing party is served and the hearing date there will exist no order for residential time with the children or other restraints (except as noted for Snohomish County). If this is of concern which could result in irreparable harm to you or your children, you may want to consider obtaining a temporary restraining order and order to show cause through an ex parte hearing.

In King County, a party seeking financial relief such as maintenance or child support must file a financial declaration signed under penalty of perjury as well as filing under seal the following financial documentation:

  1. Pay stubs for the past six months. If a party does not receive pay stubs, other documents shall be provided that show all income received from whatever source, and the deductions from earned income for these periods;
  2. Complete personal tax returns for the prior two years, including all Schedules and all W-2s;
  3. If either party owns an interest of 5% or more in a corporation, partnership or other entity that generates its own tax return, the complete tax return for each such corporation, partnership or other entity for the prior two years;
  4. All statements related to accounts in financial institutions in which the parties have or had an interest during the last six (6) months. “Financial institutions” includes banks, credit unions, mutual fund companies, and brokerages.
  5. If a party receives or has received non-taxable income or benefits (for example, from a trust, barter, gift, etc.), documents shall be provided that show receipts, the source, and any deductions for the last two (2) years.

While King County’s local rules are more detailed, both Snohomish and Pierce Counties also require a party to file a financial declaration and submit financial documentation as well.

Obtaining temporary relief can be a very complicated process. Often, the issuance of temporary orders (including a parenting plan, support orders and restraints) has a huge impact on the entire case. It is very important to consult with a competent and experienced attorney if you find yourself involved in this situation.