What is a Temporary Divorce Order, Do I Need One?

You and your ex may be ready to go your separate ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal in the eyes of the law. It can take the courts months to finalize a divorce, especially when there are children involved. As you might imagine, any delay could make day-to-day life, not to mention parenting, much harder than it needs to be. This is doubly true if, as is often the case, you are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with your soon-to-be (but not soon enough) ex.

While you are waiting, what are you supposed to do about things like visitation, child custody and child support? Winging it can lead to ugly disagreements or even the possibility of more legal repercussions. Fortunately, Nevada parents waiting on pending divorces can get something called a “temporary order” from the courts. This temporary order will stabilize your arrangements until the court enters a permanent order or modifies its temporary order. When making a temporary order, the court’s top priority is the same as yours: what is best for the child or children involved. It will consider things like health matters, how well you and the other parent are getting along and, if the children are old enough, even what they want.

How can I get a temporary order?

Either you or your spouse can file a temporary order. Once the motion is filed and served by one of you, the other is allowed to file a “written opposition.” A written opposition usually includes a countermotion; through a countermotion, the parent who did not originally file can list any problems he or she has with the proposed plan, and suggest some other ideas. The idea is for the court to figure out a reasonable compromise that is in the best interest of the child, so the next step is a hearing. On the hearing date, the judge will ask both of you questions that will help the court figure out the best course of action. The issues that usually come up when you are trying to get a temporary order put in place are exactly the things you are concerned about the most: child custody, visitation and child support.

You can file your motion for a temporary order through regular mail or through email. If your spouse has a lawyer, then the documents must be sent to that attorney. Whatever you do, no matter how tempting, make sure you give your soon-to-be-ex a chance to respond to your motion. If the other parent doesn’t get a chance to give feedback through filing a written opposition, the judge could cancel the hearing completely, and you’d end up right back at square one.

What if I’m worried?

In Nevada, both parents have equal custody of their children until the court makes its final decision. That means both you and your spouse can make decisions for, and spend time, with your kid. It also means that either one of you can take your child on an outing (to a ball game or the movies), or even out of the state entirely, without asking permission of, or informing, the other. This can be a troubling situation, to say the least.

If you are worried about something like this happening, there is something you can do. You can ask the court to grant a temporary order that would stop your spouse from taking your child out of Nevada. There are some important restrictions to keep in mind here. Nevada courts can only grant temporary child custody orders if they have legal jurisdiction over the child. This means that to get this kind of temporary order, your son or daughter has to have lived in Nevada, with one or the other of his parents, for at least six months. If the child is younger than six-months old, he or she has to have been born here.

But it’s an Emergency!

Remember we told you that it was important to wait for feedback from your spouse after filing a temporary order? If you are facing an emergency, things can be done a little differently. If your spouse is threatening to take your child out of the state, for example, or if domestic violence is taking place, you can file an ex parte motion for temporary custody. “Ex parte” means that both parties don’t need to be present, so, in this situation, your spouse does not have to be at the hearing. Based on what the judge learns at this hearing, he or she will make a temporary decision – very temporary; ex parte orders usually last just a few days. The court will use that time to review the motion and adjust its terms, making the welfare of the child its top priority. If it will keep your child safe and in a stable environment, the court may turn the short-term ex parte order into a longer temporary custody order.

You or your spouse can ask for temporary custody whether or not you are dealing with an emergency. The court always has the power to make a temporary order permanent or to change things based on information that comes up at future custody hearings.

When should I ask for a temporary order?

When your marriage breaks to the point that one of you is thinking of leaving the home, you really only have two choices: you can talk it out until you reach an agreement about child custody, child support, spousal support and how expenses will be shared; or you can go to court, share your stories, and let a judge decide. There are divorcing couples that can sit down and, working as a team, put together a mutually satisfactory written temporary agreement. Good for them. They are hard to identify with, and we don’t know any of them, but we wish them well. It’s just that, in many cases, recently uncoupled couples can’t agree on the color of the sky, no less on important, life-changing issues involving their money and their children. If you can’t come to an agreement with your (doubtlessly very difficult) co-parent, then it’s time to ask for a temporary order.

A temporary order can give you the amount of spousal support and child support you need. If you are living with your kids already, permanent custody may be granted later. And with a temporary order in place, your future ex can’t claim that you’ve kidnapped your own children. If something like that sound’s absurd to you, be warned, people can go off the rails a bit when it comes to their money or their kids. And if it doesn’t sound that absurd? Well, there is a reason you are getting a divorce; now you know how to protect yourself while you wait for it.

What should I expect at the hearing?

A “day in court” is nerve-wracking for anyone for any reason. It’s easier if you go in knowing what to expect. The hearing for your temporary order may be not even take place in a courtroom; it might be held in the judge’s chambers instead. Either way, the judge will listen to your testimony, hear from any witnesses and look over any written evidence (if you asked for temporary child support, your judge will definitely need to see copies of your income and expense budget). The judge will ask questions of everyone involved, and then check Nevada’s guidelines on child support recommendation.

If it is typical, your whole hearing will probably take about 20 minutes at most. After that, the judge’s temporary order stays in effect until your divorce is finalized. (Keep in mind that while decisions made in temporary order hearings are, by definition, temporary, they can still be influential in divorce proceedings.( If, however, the judge feels that more information is necessary, the judge will schedule another hearing and the temporary order will last only until that hearing.

Getting a temporary order is a smart thing to do if you need a judge to decide quickly who gets the money in the bank accounts, the kids and the car. It is essential if you need child support money and spousal money right away. It can also help you by preventing your former partner-in-domestic-bliss from selling off important assets without your say-so. That final divorce hearing and mediation can take months, but life goes on and you need to get on with living yours as well.