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by Samuel K. Darling, Bellevue Divorce Attorney

How do you get temporary orders in a divorce or family law case? Request them using standardized forms available on Washington’s Court Forms website under Family Law. The forms tend to be self-explanatory. Then file the forms along with a calendar note, provide the jurist with working copies, and serve the documents on the opposing party(ies).

The remainder of this article explains in more detail and answers related questions.

Table of Contents
I. What Are Temporary Orders
II. Emergency Orders, A.K.A. Immediate Ex Parte Restraining Orders
III. What Are Automatically Issued Temporary Restraining Orders
IV. What Kinds of Relief Can Temporary Orders Provide
V. The Process of Requesting Temporary Orders

I. What Are Temporary Orders?

They’re interim relief during the case’s pendency. For example, temporary orders might resolve who temporarily lives in the family home, has the children, and pays various amounts. They usually take about two weeks to obtain (21+ days for cases requiring adequate cause determinations) and last until the litigation process ends. On average they remain in place a little less than a year.

The first party to request them often gains a procedural advantage, and the outcome sets the complexion for the case. Click here for an article explaining why divorcing spouses rush to petition for relief so they can be the first to file for temporary orders. Commonly the petitioner moves for temporary orders at the same time as filing the petition for divorce, but either party can request temporary orders or modified temporary orders at any time throughout the proceeding.

II. Emergency Orders, A.K.A. Immediate Ex Parte Restraining Orders.

Sometimes a party needs emergency relief and cannot wait approximately two weeks for standard temporary orders. In that situation a party can submit a motion for immediate ex parte restraining orders. If successful, the court puts in place restraints effective that same day and sometimes without any notice to the other party. The threshold for obtaining emergency relief is high, and qualifying situations are relatively rare.

If a court grants emergency relief, the order also sets a return hearing date, usually two weeks later (21+ days later if the case requires an adequate cause determination). At the return hearing the court revisits the emergency orders and decides whether to adopt them as temporary orders or allow them to immediately expire. The court can also address non-emergency requests for standard temporary orders at the return hearing. Emergency orders closely overlap temporary orders in this way.

Click here for an article on immediate restraints and how to get them.

III. What Are Automatically Issued Temporary Restraining Orders?

Some Washington counties automatically issue very basic temporary restraining orders whenever a party files for divorce or some other type of family law proceeding. Typically these automatic temporary orders prevent parties from tampering with assets, altering insurance coverage, and changing the children’s residence.

Automatic temporary orders do not prevent a party from filing his or her own motion for temporary orders on the same topics or other topics. Automatic restraints simply fill the void until the court makes a ruling based on the facts of the case.

IV. What Kinds of Relief Can Temporary Orders Provide?

The court can grant temporary orders on virtually every topic that fits within the scope of your case. The following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Family Home. Who gets to live in the family home, and who has to pay related bills, such as utilities and the mortgage.
  • Temporary Parenting Plan. Who has the children at what times and gets to make parenting-related decisions.
  • Temporary Child Support Order. Who pays how much for child support and other child-related expenses.
  • Temporary Maintenance. Maintenance is Washington’s name for alimony or spousal support.
  • Order to Find Work. When income-based financial support is in issue, the court often orders an unemployed or underemployed party to find fulltime work commensurate with his or her education and work history.
  • Guardian ad Litem. The court can appoint a Guardian ad Litem or “GAL” to perform an out-of-court investigation into who should receive custody.
  • Vehicles. Who gets to drive which car.
  • Protective Restraints. Whether the other party can come near you, the kids, and the places you frequent.
  • Adequate Cause Determination. In a proceeding for 3rd party custody, modification of a final parenting plan, or de facto parentage, the court must find adequate cause for the case to proceed.

There are four primary limitations upon what a court can do through temporary orders. The jurist should not 1) make a permanent asset division, 2) force the sale of illiquid assets like the family home (can be done but only under extraordinary circumstances), 3) give someone else the power to adopt the parenting plan (only a judge or commissioner can decide the parenting plan), or 4) require the parties to file taxes jointly (state courts arguably lack authority to do this).

Don’t worry if you feel confused about what to request in your motion. Our firm has separate articles on who usually gets the home, maintenance calculations, maneuvering for custodydrafting parenting plans, performing child support calculations, forcing a party to work, and whether you want a GAL.

V. The Process of Requesting Temporary Orders.

Our firm has a separate article on the process of filing a motion. The process described there is the same as when requesting temporary orders. Just use the initial documents named here.

At a minimum, you’ll need the documents in this paragraph. Draft a Motion for Temporary Family Law Order (the document that tells the court what you want) and a proposed Family Law Order (the document the court will sign if it agrees with your request(s)). You can find both documents on Washington’s Court Forms Website under Family Law > Divorce. You should also prepare one or more declarations explaining why the court should grant your motion. Click here for an article on writing declarations in support of a motion. The last minimum requirement is a calendar note or hearing notice setting the hearing location, date, and time. Typically you can download this form from the county superior court’s website. Larger counties have calendar notes specifically for domestic or family law cases; don’t just use the first calendar note you find. If you’re confused about the county’s local rules and calendar note, make sure to speak briefly with a local attorney, LLLT, or family law facilitator. Facilitators are the least expensive option at $10 per session but can only answer basic questions.

This next paragraph lists additional documents you should prepare depending on the relief you want. To support any request for temporary financial orders, you should prepare a Financial Declaration. The bottom of the Financial Declaration lists financial source documents you should provide if you’re able. Gather those financial source documents and put a Sealed Financial Source Documents Cover Sheet on them as the first page. For DV restraints, prepare a proposed temporary Restraining Order. If children are involved, you should prepare the following additional documents to the extent relevant to your motion: a) a proposed temporary Parenting Plan, b) Information for Temporary Parenting Plan (optional if include the same information in your declaration), c) proposed Child Support Worksheets; d) proposed Child Support Order, and e) Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem for Child. You can find templates on Washington’s Court Forms Website under Family Law, but the documents tend to be spread out under different categories.  

That’s it! We hope you found this article useful. Our firm believes in making quality legal information available for free on the internet. For more, click the resources tab in this page’s upper right corner.

Or call us at 866-631-0028 to speak with a Genesis attorney or LLLT. From all of us at Genesis, we wish you the best with your family law matter!

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