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Temporary Orders for Protection of Marital Assets in Divorce

Divorce suits can take several months or even longer to become final. During the case, a spouse may apply for the court to grant temporary orders for child custody and visitation rights, child and/or spousal support, medical payments, parenting time, and disposal of property. Courts may then grant, pending a full hearing, temporary orders concerning child custody, child support, and some restraining orders or injunctions. Other temporary orders, including awards interim legal fees, may be granted without an immediate hearing, depending on the case’s circumstances.

Requests for temporary orders may be entered when the divorce petition is filed or after the case has begun. Temporary orders are valid and effective for the duration stated in the order, until the next appropriate hearing date, or until a party asks the court to modify the orders. Usually, when the final decree is issued, existing temporary orders either are canceled or are converted into permanent orders.

Temporary orders for property protection are designed to prevent irreparable losses from dissipation, concealment, or conveyance to third parties. Such orders include orders directing one spouse not to dispose of marital property, encumber marital property, or interfere with property in the other spouse’s possession. Courts also may issue temporary orders to prevent third parties from degrading or dissipating marital property that is in the third parties’ possession or control. The orders also may take an affirmative tone by ordering a spouse to maintain insurance and utility service and continue other routine property-preserving activities. Temporary property protection orders often are necessary whenever invaluable assets are involved. It is common for temporary orders to grant one spouse the right to use an item, and to provide compensating support to the other spouse until the assets are divided and distributed.

Whether temporary orders are directed toward a spouse or a third party, the orders usually are equivalent to injunctions and usually are enforced by the same procedures that are used to enforce injunctions. Remedies for violations of the order can include sanctions for contempt of court. If a spouse dissipates marital property in violation of a protection order, it usually is within the court’s power to order restitution or to offset the loss with property that otherwise would go to the offending spouse.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.