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Obtaining a Temporary Order – What Is It? Do I Need One?

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."

- Leo Tolstoy

Let’s start with the basics. A temporary order is a set of rules that define your responsibilities while you await the finalization of your divorce.

While they may sound a bit ominous, temporary orders (in Colorado it is called a “Temporary Order” while other states sometimes call it a “separation agreement”) can be a good thing. Because divorce takes time. And having some things you can depend on during an often turbulent process can be assuring.

You’ll quickly find that patience is key to working through the legal process of divorce because once you’ve filed, it takes time before the final divorce orders are issued. This is especially true if you have contested financial, custody, or other issues. 

Clearly, sorting out some of these issues can’t wait. For issues that require immediate attention, you and your spouse might agree to a separation agreement, or a judge may grant a temporary order to resolve interim issues, such as how you will both pay for housing during your separation, or what parenting schedule you will follow with your kids?

Financial issues can worsen during the divorce process, and temporary orders can be an important way to protect yourself, your family, and your ability to make a living and pay your bills. 

After the divorce is finalized, temporary orders end and are replaced by orders in the final divorce decree.

Story

“We needed to live apart in order to get through the divorce process sanely. With the help of our mediator, we agreed that I would move out of the house and my husband would pay temporary spousal support and child support until we finalized the divorce, since his income is higher than mine. This allowed us to begin the joint custody process in a calm way and to finish mediation with a sense of shared responsibility and trust.”

-Susan

Put your motion in motion

Obtaining a temporary order during your divorce proceedings means making an official request of the court. This is known as a motion, where you detail a request and the reasons why you’re making it. Either party in a divorce can file a motion for a temporary order, which can cover issues like:

  • Support payments for yourself or your spouse

  • Support payments for your child or children

  • Who lives in the family home

  • A temporary child custody and visitation schedule

  • Medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance

  • Restricting sales of valuable marital assets and possessions

Important note 

Temporary orders only work for things that can be undone at a later date. For example, a judge won’t order the sale of marital property in a temporary order because the property can’t be “brought back” later for distribution between spouses when the divorce is finalized.

What happens next

In your motions you must submit the reasons and law that support your motion to the court. If you and your ex have come to some agreements amicably, such as who will live where (and how they’ll pay for it), and who will see the kids on which days, you might decide to have your attorney help you turn those verbal agreements into an official stipulation for temporary orders with the court.  If the court approves your agreements they will become Orders.  

3 more things to keep in mind…

1. Filing rules vary by state

When can you file for a temporary order? Like many rules and laws surrounding divorce, it varies by state. In some states, you must wait until divorce papers have been filed. In other states, you may file upon separation. 

2. Honesty is the smartest policy

Be honest when filing a motion, and with the documentation and facts you file to support it. Avoid misrepresenting or exaggerating. Courts take perjury seriously.

3. Divorce hack: Maintenance

One general rule of thumb: maintenance, aka alimony or spousal support, will usually be paid for half of the length of the marriage, and the entire length of the temporary orders. In some cases, people may try to draw out the length of the divorce to get more maintenance. Be sure to write in your temporary orders and divorce decree that the total number of months for maintenance will include all months during temporary orders. This helps remove any incentive to prolong the process. 

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