When spouses seek a TRO—for reasons other than domestic violence—they usually make their request in conjunction with filing the divorce petition (sometimes called the divorce “complaint”). If you’re worried about your spouse leaving the area with your children or using all of the marital savings, you will want some protections in place as soon as possible. However, a court can issue a TRO at any time during the divorce, for any number of reasons.
Some states, such as California, have taken a proactive approach to preserving the status quo from the beginning of the divorce process. These states utilize what’s known as Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs), which become effective automatically and as soon as you file the divorce petition. Usually, the ATROs bind the spouse filing the petition immediately and the other spouse as soon as that spouse receives the divorce papers. These automatic restraining orders are meant to address potential problematic actions, such as those referenced in the preceding section.
Some states may have variations of the ATROs, while others might have no such provisions. If your state doesn’t incorporate ATROs in the divorce petition, then your attorney is going to have to specifically ask the court to issue a restraining order that addresses your specific concerns. Again, attorneys should do this when they file the divorce petition. Even if you don’t think your spouse will do anything harmful, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The divorce process can be an emotional roller coaster, and you never know when something can incite vindictive behavior. It makes sense to stop it before it happens, rather than having to try to remedy the problem after the fact.
Regarding domestic violence cases, all states have procedures in place that allow someone to apply for a TRO at any time of the day. Since domestic violence laws vary from state to state, you’ll need to check your particular state’s rules and regulations to obtain the necessary information. You can often find this online. In case of an emergency, you should contact your local police department.
Because obtaining temporary restraining orders in a divorce can be quite complicated, be sure to consult a reputable and knowledgeable divorce attorney for specific information about your case.