Filing for divorce or legal separation can result in a lot of changes taking place within a very short time. Often, at the time of filing, the parties live together, and a decision must be made about who remains living in the marital residence. The parties to a divorce or separation may share expenses and responsibility for bills, and so it must be determined who will pay for what, while the divorce or separation proceeds. If there are children involved, often times both parents will have strong and opposing ideas as to who should care for the children, and so a determination as to their custody and placement must be made. There will inevitably be other questions, such as who gets to drive which vehicle, whether a party receives or pays child support or spousal support, and who will pay for the children’s health insurance costs, school expenses, and so forth. The minimum waiting period for a divorce to be final, in Wisconsin, is 120 days. As such, to provide some stability and guidance during the waiting period, it is very important for parties to have some ground rules to follow, while the divorce or legal separation is pending.
Fortunately, temporary orders can help people to resolve these and other important issues, while they wait for a divorce or legal separation to be final. A temporary order is just that—a court order that remains in place only until the final divorce or separation judgement replaces it with a “permanent” or final order. A temporary order can be obtained at any point in the divorce process prior to the final judgement. Usually, it makes the most sense for a temporary order to be requested very early in the case, many times at the same time the initial divorce or separation pleadings are filed with the court. This is because often, the time just after filing will involve the most transitions for a family, in the shortest period of time. It is also a time when emotions run high, and if people can’t agree on how to proceed, a temporary order can help to bypass a stalemate or reduce conflict
The first step in obtaining a temporary order is to file a motion with the family court, requesting a temporary order hearing. The motion is supported by an affidavit, or sworn statement, that details all of the issues you would like the court to resolve, at the hearing. When you file the motion, the court will give you a hearing date and time, and will tell you who will be presiding over your hearing. Depending on what county you live in, your temporary order hearing could be in front of a judge or in front of a family court commissioner. Both parties are required to attend the hearing. At the hearing, evidence is presented and testimony is taken from both parties, and the judge or commissioner will then issue a temporary order, which will make the rules from that date until it is changed or until it is replaced by the final divorce or legal separation judgement.
After a temporary order is issued, both parties must follow its provisions, or risk being found in contempt of court. If problems arise with the order, either party may petition the court to amend the temporary order, at any time prior to the final hearing. If a temporary order is working well for a family, many times its terms will be incorporated into the final judgement of divorce or legal separation.
Obtaining a temporary order that satisfactorily addresses all of your needs can be difficult, as it involves an evidentiary court hearing. If you are considering filing for divorce or legal separation and you believe that a temporary order would be helpful to you, you should contact an experienced family law attorney, for help and guidance. We have helped countless families through the process of obtaining a temporary order, and we would be happy to set up a free half-hour consultation, to discuss your case with you and to help you to navigate the process.