If Hollywood is right about anything, it’s that divorce is messy, and it doesn’t take much for this process to quickly spiral down into a cesspool of toxic name-calling, petty backbiting, and in some cases, even physical harm.
With emotions running so high, it’s sometimes necessary to file a temporary restraining order, which can be used to keep things civil while a judge decides on a more permanent solution.
Here’s what you need to know about temporary restraining orders in Texas, how they differ from protective orders, and what the North Texas Family Lawyers team can do to help you navigate your divorce.
Temporary Restraining Order vs. Protective Order
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room right away: temporary restraining orders and protective orders are not the same things.
It’s confusing, we know—especially since the terms are used so interchangeably in everyday lingo. However, aside from the fact that they can both be used to prohibit contact with another person, these legal orders have very little in common.
Here’s a closer look.
Temporary Restraining Order
In Texas, temporary restraining orders (or “TROs”) are used by civil courts to prohibit certain behavior while a case is pending. This legal document can also be used to require action, ensuring that a party doesn’t shirk their responsibilities while waiting for a final order.
During a divorce, a TRO is often used to keep things civil between spouses and to prevent any kind of emotional, physical, or financial retaliation.
However, while a TRO can certainly be used to prohibit contact with the other side, the presence of it in a divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s domestic violence involved.
On the other side of the coin are protective orders.
Unlike TROs, protective orders are issued by the criminal court system (rather than civil), and are used exclusively to restrict harmful or threatening contact against another person.
Among other things, this legal document can be used to:
- Prohibit acts of family violence, harassment, or emotional torment;
- Cut off all direct and indirect communication;
- Put a physical distance boundary in place for a person, a place of employment, or school; and,
- Remove children from an abuser’s possession.
The main purpose of a protective order is to shield victims of family and dating violence from further harm. Hence, they have a much narrower scope of use in family law, and are not generally granted during divorce unless there’s a history of domestic violence, or clear evidence of a threat.
Temporary Restraining Orders and Divorce
Not every divorce case needs a temporary order. Generally speaking, these restrictions are only needed in cases where one or both spouses are worried about intentional retaliation, harm, or sabotage from the other, while the divorce process is pending.
Under these circumstances, a temporary restraining order can be used to help maintain the status quo until a TRO hearing can be scheduled (where a judge will decide if a longer-lasting order is necessary).
To this end, a TRO can be used to prevent either spouse from:
- Making major withdraws from bank accounts
- Selling, dissolving, or altering property
- Running up marital debt
- Harassing the other person
- Making changes to a child’s daycare or school routine
- Altering life insurance beneficiaries
- Interfering with the other person’s mail or business affairs
- Intentionally damaging, destroying, or tampering with the other person’s property
While TROs cannot be used to dictate child custody arrangements (such as visitation and child support), under extreme circumstances, it is possible to limit one parent’s contact with a child, until a hearing can be scheduled.
Applying for a TRO
Temporary restraining orders are typically filed at the onset of a case (usually in tandem with the original divorce complaint). The exact filing requirements vary by county, though, so it’s a good idea to talk to a family law attorney about the specifics if this is something you’re considering.
Most of the time, affidavits and other evidence are not required for filing a TRO. The only exception is if you are trying to prohibit a parent from having contact with their child. In those situations, the person seeking the order would need to provide an affidavit listing out all the reasons why they believe “irreparable harm” would come to their child, if the contact continued.
As its name implies, TROs are temporary in nature, and are only enforceable for fourteen days.
For restrictions that last longer than that, you will need to request a regular, run-of-the-mill “temporary order.” Just like a TRO, temporary orders are not permanent. Instead, they are drafted to last for a specified duration of time; for divorce, this usually means until the end of a case.
These matters will be decided at your TRO hearing, which will take place at some point during the fourteen days of your TRO’s lifespan.
TRO Notice Requirement
A temporary restraining order is an “ex parte” legal document, which means that they can be filed without a hearing, or giving notice to the other party listed in the document.
That being said, it is not enforceable until the other side is notified of the terms. This notification must be carried out via proper service.
What Happens After a TRO?
At some point during the fourteen-day lifespan of your TRO, you will have a hearing. At that time, your judge will listen to witnesses and review evidence, to decide what—if anything—to include in your temporary order.
TROs, themselves, are not subject to appeal or modification. On the other hand, temporary orders—which last much longer than TROs—can be modified.
If you disagree with the terms of your temporary order, or have a significant change in circumstances after your hearing, you can petition for a TRO modification by filing a motion with the court.
Divorce Attorneys in Texas
In an emotionally charged divorce environment, people often do things they aren’t proud of, and shirk responsibilities they know they shouldn’t. If this is something you’re worried about in your divorce, then it might be time to consider a temporary restraining order.
For more questions about temporary restraining orders in Texas, and how one might affect your situation, we want to hear from you. Call the North Texas Family Lawyers team today at (972) 402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and together, we can figure out if this step is right for you.