At the onset of a divorce, automatic temporary restraining orders, also known as ATROS, go into effect to make sure the status quo remains during the pendency of the case. These orders are found on the second page of the Family Law Summons and are there to protect both parties. For the spouse who previously had control of the finances without restriction, or to the person who wants their divorce wrapped up as quickly as possible, these orders seem especially frustrating.
What is Prohibited by the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROS)?
Specifically, the restraining orders prohibit each spouse from cancelling or removing the other from an existing health insurance policy, cashing out a retirement account, or, removing the child(ren) from the state without the written consent of the other spouse. It prohibits one party from taking out loans on the community property (for example, a HELOC or 2nd mortgage on a family residence), or taking all of the funds out of a joint bank account. The automatic temporary restraining orders protect both parties while the divorce process is pending to ensure that the assets are preserved and that everything is fairly divided.
Our clients often ask us whether they can immediately remove a spouse from their health or car insurance policies because it is no longer affordable to have a family policy without the benefit of two incomes. The simple answer is no, this will violate the ATROS. Inevitably the next question is how is it fair to require one spouse to keep paying for the other after separation. The court does allow for reimbursement to the spouse who continues to pay for such things in the form of Watts charges and Epstein credits, so not to worry, there will be a balancing that occurs near the end of the divorce.
Can You Get Around the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROS)?
At the law office of Mayer & Young, PC, our attorneys recommend that parties attempt to reach agreements whenever possible. Such agreements allow the parties to a divorce to act without the restriction of the automatic temporary restraining orders. Often times, spouses will start to divide the financial bills and responsibilities right away. This can include getting your own cell phone policy, independent car insurance policies, and, each enrolling in his or her own health coverage and not as a dependent of the other. Keep in mind however, that it is extremely important to memorialize these agreements in writing to ensure that expectations are clear and to protect the parties from potential court sanctions.