What are Temporary Orders and Do They Happen in Every Case?

Temporary Orders are orders issued by a court during a divorce case (and sometimes in modifications) that address how things will proceed while the divorce is pending.  There are many different issues that temporary orders can deal with, including but not limited to these common ones:

Use of Property – For example, who gets to stay in the residence while the divorce case is pending.

Payment of Bills – Typical issues are who will pay the mortgage/rent, car payments, credit card payments, etc.

Conservatorship of Children – In divorce cases involving children one of key issues is who will get primary custody of the children.  Often this is agreed to between the parties, sometimes it is hotly contested.

Child Support – This will be paid by the non-primary parent.  The amount is frequently agreed to since the calculation of child support is determined by the statutory formula in most cases.

Spousal Support – In some cases where there is need and an income disparity between the parties the court will order temporary spousal support. This is not to be confused with post-divorce maintenance or alimony which has very different requirements and usually only applies to marriages with durations of at least ten years. With temporary spousal support there is no minimum marriage duration requirement. It is purely based on the needs of one party and the ability of the other party.

Injunctions – These are generally rules of conduct that the court imposes on both parties.  Typical injunctions come directly from Texas Family Code Section 6.501 and include prohibitions on, among other things, harassing the other party, selling property, cashing out retirement money, or canceling insurance policies.  Depending on the facts of the case there can also be restrictions against having opposite sex overnight visitors while in possession of the children or of consuming alcohol during or immediately before a period of possession.

Inventory Deadline – If a case progresses far enough each party will need to file a sworn inventory.  This is a listing of details of the assets and liabilities of the parties, along with positions on whether there is any separate property and if so, the details of the separate property.  It is common for temporary orders to include a deadline for the parties to each file an inventory.

Mediation Deadline – Again if a case progresses far enough it will be necessary to schedule a mediation prior to trial.  Most counties have a Local Rule requiring mediation prior to trial. Temporary Orders will frequently include a deadline by which the parties have to attend mediation to attempt to settle their case prior to trial.

There are many other potential issues that could be addressed in a temporary order, it just depends on the particular facts and details of your case.  I should point out that not every case requires temporary orders and if there is no compelling need to obtain temporary orders it makes sense to save the parties’ resources and not file the motion.

If you are considering filing for divorce and believe that you will need temporary orders it is very important that you discuss your case with a good family law attorney.  While some people file their own cases and represent themselves in an agreed simple divorce (not something I recommend even in a simple case), you should not attempt to file a motion for temporary orders and have a hearing without a good lawyer.  It is far too complicated and if your spouse is represented by an attorney you could get a very bad result.

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Scott Morgan is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has practiced family law since 1994 and is the founder of the Morgan Law Firm which is dedicated exclusively to representing divorce and family law clients in the Houston and Austin areas.

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