So you just got served with divorce papers, part III – TROs and Show Cause Orders

Sometimes, within the service packet of your divorce, will be an additional preliminary motion or order from the Court. When an attorney files for a divorce, they are sometimes able to get the Judge to sign off on things on an emergency basis before you even know a divorce has been filed. These things are called “ex parte” filings and the basis behind them is sometimes you don’t have time to get everyone served and together before damage has been done. If this happened in your case, there may or may not be a separate motion from the divorce complaint asking for this to be done. You would see it in the prayer for relief talked about in Part Two asking for an emergency or ex parte order and possibly something called a Show Cause Order. Where I frequently ask for these is if there is a spouse who is a danger to a minor child, or if there is a danger of parental kidnapping, or there may also be a danger to property. For example, if the spouse has control of all of the bank accounts and has threatened to leave the country I may ask for them to be restrained from taking the funds from the account and transferring them off-shore. This would make sure that if that spouse did that thing, I could demand they serve jail time for not listening to the Court’s orders. Although some of these things are governed by the Statutory Injunction, the injunction can be vague. An explicit demand from a Judge not to do something is much more difficult to explain away at a Show Cause Hearing.

If a temporary restraining order has been issued, there may or may not be a preliminary court date set. However, if a Show Cause Order has been granting, the Order will be included and will tell you the date and time you must be at court. Sometimes, because of delays that come from service, this may be just a few days away so it is of the utmost importance that you read closely and immediately contact counsel so they can either request a continuance or have time to prepare for the hearing. These hearings can be very important, as they typically stay in place for the entirety of the divorce. If you blow off a Show Cause hearing on temporary spousal support for example, you may wind up paying a huge amount of money you cannot afford for sometimes 18 or more months in contested divorces. These orders can also seriously hinder your ability to defend yourself as it may tie up all the funds that you would have otherwise used to hire an attorney.

If the TRO does not have a preliminary hearing date scheduled, you will need to have your attorney request a court date to ask to set it aside or for it to be modified if you disagree with it. It is important that you act swiftly if the TRO involves your children, as the longer it remains in place and restricts you access, the longer the pattern of limited contact and the more likely the court will be to continue that limited contact in the future. It is important to note that the Court made the decision to issue the TRO from the statements of just one party. They understand there may be a second side of the story and most judges are open-minded about allowing you the opportunity to present your argument.

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