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Santa Barbara Temporary Relief Orders Attorney

The divorce process can often take a considerable amount of time from beginning to end. Often, it’s impractical or even impossible for a couple to wait until final judgment to decide issues such as custody and support, payment of debts and management of the community estate. In the interim between filing and final dissolution, some logistics must be sorted out. For example: Who stays in the house? Who pays for the mortgage? If you are the supported spouse, will you get your living expenses paid for? What about spousal support?  If you have children, who has custodial rights? What about child support?   Luckily, California has it’s own system in place to allow spouses to petition the court for temporary orders to either maintain the status quo until their divorce is final or to make new orders as necessary for your particular circumstances. In legalese, these are “pendente lite” orders, which means “pending a final decree.”

Santa Barbara Temporary Relief Orders Attorney

Once a timely Response is filed in response to a Dissolution of Marriage Petition, one or both of the parties may seek orders by way of a Request for Order (RFO). An RFO is a formal pleading/request for an order from the court. This pleading is commonly used pretrial to request temporary custody, temporary child or spousal support, and any number of pretrial requests that require a hearing in which the parties testify.

Temporary orders are applicable only while a divorce is pending. Because their sole purpose is to preserve the status quo until the court reaches a final decision or the couple agrees to a settlement, the terms of a final divorce decree supersede and terminate temporary orders. Pendente lite orders remain in effect from the date the court signs them until the date of the decree.

Issues Subject to Temporary Orders

The most common temporary relief sought in an RFO often relates to such matters as custody and child support, spousal support, payment of community debts, or other temporary relief necessary for the circumstances of a dissolution or legal separation, such as move-out orders for exclusive use and possession of the marital home, exclusive use of community vehicles, or even management and control of a community business. 

If the relief sought is urgent, such that “irreparable harm” will occur if the relief is not granted, a party can file an “ex parte” RFO and seek immediate relief from the court. An ex parte request differs from a standard RFO in the time frames involved. A standard RFO or motion for temporary relief must give the other party at minimum 16 court-days to respond before the parties can discuss the matter in front of the judge. An ex parte RFO enables the parties to have the judge review the RFO and request in a matter of a day or two.

Limits of Temporary Relief Orders

Temporary or pendente lite divorce orders typically only address issues the court can undo later if necessary, such as spousal and child support and custody. They set rules in place until a divorce is final. For example, courts won’t order the sale of marital property in a temporary order, because after its sale, it can’t be brought back into the marital estate for distribution between spouses at the time of the divorce.

Courts will, however, allow the sale of a home pending divorce if both spouses are in agreement, rather than lose the buyer. A pendente lite order could also direct that the proceeds of home sale be held in escrow until property distribution can be decided at trial. Some pendente lite orders, called injunctions or stays, prevent spouses from selling assets until a court can address their distribution.

Effect on Final Judgment

Santa Barbara Temporary Relief Orders Attorney

The terms of temporary orders often carry over into a final decree. Although a pendente lite order officially ends when the judge signs the decree, its terms may be repeated in the decree. This is often the case with temporary child support orders. Courts base child support calculations on the incomes of both parents.

Unless one parent has had a radical change of circumstance during the pendency of the divorce, there’s often no need to recalculate support all over again, or if they do, the results will typically come out the same or very close to the previous pendente lite order. Moreover, temporary custody orders sometimes set a precedent and create a routine for children that judges are reluctant to disturb. Courts are more likely to adjust the terms of temporary spousal support orders in a final decree, because the value of property distributed to each spouse is often a factor in deciding spousal support calculations. 

Post Judgment Modifications

An RFO is also frequently used post-trial to request modification of permanent child support, spousal support, custody, or other permanent orders contained in the judgment of dissolution or legal separation when there has been a change in circumstances.

Obtaining Temporary Relief without Costly Court Battles

As it is the case with most things in family law, temporary relief can often be obtained without ever going to court through the signing of a stipulation and order. Hearings for temporary orders are costly and emotional, and therefore it is always better to seek out mutual agreement, and let a few minor points slide, then to proceed in court where the cost of battle could outweigh the gains. One or two of your temporary orders for the next few months are usually not worth the considerable expense of a court hearing. Obviously this will all depend on how amiable the parties are, how reasonable each is in their respective expectations, and how inclined each is towards settlement.

Responsive, Diligent and Results Oriented Representation

At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles we act quickly to address all your concerns and goals regarding any necessary temporary relief and will use whatever means available and appropriate for obtaining the particular relief you need pending the final outcome of your case.

To speak to an attorney at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles about obtaining pendente lite orders in a Santa Barbara County divorce or family law matter, please visit us online at www.ccsblaw.com or call us at (805) 617-4618 for a free confidential consultation.

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