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Divorce and the need for an automatic temporary restraining order

When most people think of a restraining order they might assume it involves some form of domestic abuse or physical violence in a distressed relationship however not in this case. An automatic temporary restraining order or ATRO is used in a divorce to establish a baseline regarding a couple's assets, including insurance policies, bank accounts, estate beneficiary and retirement account designations and the like. It is designed to ensure an equitable distribution of assets.

Every state has differences in their divorce laws, including Florida and the way it address the concept of an ATRO varies as well. An ATRO goes into effect immediately upon filing the petition for divorce in some states and stays in effect until the final judgment is reached. What an ATRO does is establish a court order in a divorce, legal separation or paternity case that prohibits either party from selling, transferring or borrowing against any property or damaging or hiding any property or assets. Making changes to bank and investment accounts is also prohibited.

An ATRO can be considered a legally binding way of ensuring either spouse does not alter the financial status quo as it exists at the time of filing for divorce or separation. In essence an automatic restraining order freezes the assets, which may be particularly important in cases where one spouse controls the majority of the family finances. Some might consider it a tool that levels the playing field, in a manner of speaking.

Not every state automatically includes an ATRO as part of a divorce or petition for the dissolution of a marriage but most every state has the ability to accomplish the same goals. Depending on the state in which you live you may have to request your divorce attorney file an ATRO as part of your divorce petition. Another step in the process is ensuring that all accounts and policies are notified of an ATRO being put into effect as this is not always a matter done by the courts.

And if both parties agree to change the terms of an ATRO, modifications can be made. And ATRO does not prohibit either party from going about normal business transactions, such as paying routine bills, however these transactions will be reviewed to ensure they are indeed normal and not in violation of the terms of the ATRO.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: Here's What You Need to Know About ATROs," Jeff Landers, July 11, 2012

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Busciglio & Sheridan Law Group
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