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What are temporary orders, and do I need them in my divorce?

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You may have heard about temporary orders and wondered if it's something you need as you're going through your divorce. While not every couple gets them, it's a step that allows couples to proceed in a divorce with agreements in place that function much like the divorce decree does once a couple gets divorced.

When a couple getting divorced puts temporary orders in place, they're setting up the rules by which they'll operate during the divorce in a legal document. The orders can cover issues such as parenting time, who will cover what bills, who will provide health insurance for both parties and the children, who will live in the house (assuming that you're like most couples and have a single house in the marital estate), and other issues that might be specific to your divorce.

Temporary orders are especially helpful if it will take a substantial amount of time to get the divorce finalized, but they can even help couples who only take a relatively short period of time to get divorced.

They're helpful because they create an enforceable document addressing the issues that might come up as couples are trying to maintain as normal a setting as possible for themselves and their children. Without temporary orders, a couple has to either try to negotiate issues as they come up themselves, which can result in unwelcome conflict, or go through their lawyers and the courts, filing motions and going through the courts, which can result in unwelcome and potentially costly conflict.

It's worth noting that many Texas counties, including Bexar County, have adopted standing orders to go into effect the moment any divorce petition is filed, for both the petitioner and the respondent. That set of orders includes guidelines for decorum and property matters between the couple as the case moves toward resolution, and it's a good list of actions for ensuring a divorce goes as smoothly and conflict-free as possible.

And yet, the standing orders don't cover everything that might pertain to an individual couple - they're just meant to cover some common sense basics. They're also enacted early in the process. Typically, temporary orders are filed with a divorce petition, and the respondent has to respond by the Monday (at 10 am) that falls after the 20th calendar day after a petition was served on her or him.

(So, for ease of illustration, let's say a petition was filed on Wednesday the 1st. You'd count 20 calendar days to Tuesday the 21st, and then to the Monday following that day, which is Monday the 27th.)

It's required for both parties to show up to a hearing if the temporary orders aren't agreed upon beforehand, though a motion of continuance can be filed to postpone the hearing. It's also possible that the temporary orders include a temporary restraining order; those are serious in that they usually detail restrictions on contact between the parties due to safety concerns.

While temporary orders won't anticipate all the issues that come up in the course of a divorce, they're meant to provide some fallback for couples who might otherwise fall into disagreement on certain issues. They can also, if they work well for the couple, provide some basis for a divorce decree that they and their lawyers can negotiate, saving the time and expense that taking a case all the way to court might bring.

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