Automatic Temporary Retraining Orders (or “ATROs”) are judicial orders that automatically take effect when one spouse files for divorce, annulment, or legal separation. These orders prevent both spouses from taking certain actions with regards to the couple’s children or joint assets. An ATRO will not take affect until one spouse receives the summons, which is a legal document that gives you notice that your spouse is filing for divorce.1
Purpose of Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (Family Code 2040)
Under California Family Code 2040, once an ATRO takes effect there are several court orders that you must follow, which are:
- You must not take any of your children out of state or apply for a new or replacement passport for your child without the other parent’s prior written consent;
- You must not take any action that may affect the legal status (for example sell or transfer ownership) of any joint or separate property, whether real estate or other possessions, without the prior written consent of your spouse unless such action is in the usual course of business or necessary to do so;
- You are required to give your spouse five days prior notice before making an “extravagant” purchase, which excludes hiring an attorney;
- You must not take any action to affect any insurance policy that mutually benefits your spouse and/or your children. This includes refraining from cancelling, borrowing against, transferring, or changing the beneficiary on any insurance policy; and
- You must refrain from changing any legal document (other than your last will and testament) affecting the transfer of property upon your death without your spouse’s prior written consent. This includes revocable trusts, totten trusts, bank accounts, and investment accounts.
If you violate the retraining order, you could be held in contempt, and it may be considered by the court regarding your divorce settlement or child custody.
Modifying an ATRO
Either spouse may be able to change the automatic conditions or terms of the restraining order if you get a court order. In order to do so, your family law attorney must appear before a judge and show good cause for doing so. Once a divorce is finalized, however, it is unnecessary to do so because the ATRO will be lifted.
Duration of the Restraining Order
An ATRO will last until your divorce is final or for the duration of your legal separation. If both parties agree, you can get a court order to terminate the restraining order at an earlier date.
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1. Fam. Code, § 2040↩