First Things First: Initial Orders in Divorce

Regardless of which spouse does the actual filing, initiating a divorce action in New York subjects both spouses to an automatic order – sometimes referred to as an ATRO, or Automatic Temporary Restraining Order.

These orders effectively put a freeze on certain financial transactions in order to maintain the financial status quo of the marriage until the divorce is finalized. The automatic orders specify that neither spouse may:

  • Sell, transfer, conceal, dispose of or assign assets including real estate, personal property, cash accounts, stocks, retirement accounts and other property
  • Lessen the value of the property (for example, take out a loan secured by the property)
  • Take on additional unreasonable debt such as credit lines, credit cards or cash advances
  • Remove the other spouse or children from existing medical or dental coverage
  • Change the beneficiaries on existing life insurance policies
  • Alter existing life, auto, homeowners, and/or renters insurance policies

The order doesn’t apply to usual expenses, household expenses or reasonable attorney’s fees for the divorce case. Violating the order could result in contempt charges against the offending spouse.

Another temporary order that may be applied is known as temporary maintenance, in which funds are paid by the higher income spouse to the lower income spouse during the time that a divorce case is pending. Temporary maintenance is contingent on the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay — the New York Court system calculator can help you estimate if this support is necessary. And for detailed guidance regarding temporary orders in the divorce process, contact an experienced family law attorney today.

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