Written by attorney Kelly West Decker

What you can and can't get with a Temporary Restraining Order

Finances are cited as the No. 1 cause of seeking a divorce. One fear many spouses cite is how to pay bills when couples no longer are living together. I get the same question all the time: “I want him/her to leave, but I can’t afford this house on my own." A temporary restraining order, a/k/a TRO, can ensure basic financial needs are met until the community estate is divided. Unfortunately, a TRO cannot be used to force someone to leave the house unless the case involves family violence.

A TRO usually is obtained by the petitioner on the day the petition for divorce is filed. It is a very common way to establish ground rules for financial, household and children issues until the parties agree to final terms. In cases where the parties are not likely to trust each other, a TRO could restrain people from taking money out of a checking account, running up a credit card with a little retail therapy or even taking the kids out of state. Although a TRO expires in two weeks, it can be extended and made into a temporary injunction until the divorce and custodial arrangements are finalized, which, as you may know, can be years.

You might ask, “Can it keep someone from slashing tires?" The answer is yes. You can ask the court to restrain someone from harassing, prank calling and/or causing bodily injury to the spouse or child. Although a TRO can’t physically keep someone from withdrawing all the money out of an ATM or spray painting your garage, these acts would be punishable by contempt. Contempt basically means in violation of a court order and carries with it fines and possible jail time. It’s the best way to have some security during a volatile time.

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