Automatic Restraining Order FAQ: What is an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) and how does it work?
What is an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order and How Does It Work in California?
In California, ATRO stands for Automatic Temporary Restraining Order. An ATRO is not the same as a protective order, and it is not intended to protect one person from another. Instead, it is meant to protect the interests of two parties by setting ground rules that both parties need to follow.
An automatic temporary restraining order goes into effect, as the name implies, automatically — in most cases. However, it only applies to certain legal issues. So, when does an automatic temporary restraining order go into effect, and what does it do?
When Does an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order Go Into Effect in California?
ATROs go into effect in legal situations that involve two parties and that will take a significant amount of time to work out the details. Examples include the following.
• Dissolution (divorce)
• Legal Separation
• Paternity or Parentage Case
During these types of family law cases, both parties will be dividing things such as finances, property, debts, assets, and time spent with children. An ATRO is meant to protect both parties from overusing or losing access to all of these things.
In California, an automatic temporary restraining order is written on the back of the summons that each party gets from the court. The petitioner gets the ATRO and is legally obligated to follow it when they file their initial papers with the court. The respondent, or the other spouse, is legally bound to follow the ATRO once he or she has been served with papers. In the above listed cases, the ATRO is sent automatically, so neither party needs to request it.
It is also important to notify your banks, insurance companies, etc. about the upcoming divorce and the current ATRO that is in effect. These parties will not be automatically notified of the ATRO, and although you and your spouse or partner are not legally allowed to take certain actions, there is no preventative measure taken by the courts. Let all involved parties know about the restraining order when it goes into effect so that you can avoid unnecessary messes later.
An automatic temporary restraining order will be in effect until the legal process is over. When your divorce, legal separation, annulment, or paternity case ends, you will usually get several long term court orders regarding children, support, and finances instead of one temporary court order that is meant to cover all of these topics.
What Does an ATRO Do in California?
An automatic temporary restraining order restrains both involved parties from taking certain actions that could negatively affect the other party in the outcome of the divorce.
Children & Child Custody
There may or may not be a temporary child custody and visitation order in place during the proceedings. If there is, both parties are required to follow the terms of the custody and visitation order in addition to the automatic temporary restraining order.
An automatic temporary restraining order will usually disallow both parties from taking any minor children of either or both parties from the state unless that party has advance written consent from the other party or a written court order that has been signed by a judge.
This portion of the ATRO exists to protect the child’s relationship with both parents. Until the courts can create and approve a valid child custody and visitation agreement in the best interest of the child, his or her current home, in the state of California, is the best place for him or her to be. This allows stability in the child’s life, which is important in child development. It also prevents either parent from kidnapping the child or keeping the child from the other parent.
There is an exception to this stipulation. If the child is already living in another state when the dissolution, legal separation, annulment, or parentage case is initially filed, it will allow the child to remain where he or she is living throughout the legal process.
Finances & Assets
This portion of the automatic temporary restraining order restricts what both parties are legally allowed to do regarding their own shared finances, property and assets. It prevents both parties from taking certain actions that could affect the other party negatively.
For example, when the parties are dividing property in a legal separation or dissolution, this portion of the ATRO prevents either party from hiding or disposing of assets and creating an unfair or illegal division of property and debts.
• Neither party can take out a loan on any shared or community property. This means that no shared property can be used as collateral for a loan, because if the party taking the loan were to default, the lender would be able to take shared property from both parties, even though only one party is taking a loan.
• Neither party is allowed to close any shared bank accounts and place the funds into an individual account.
• Safe deposit boxes, regardless of their contents, may not be emptied, and their contents may not be placed in the care of a third party.
If either party has large expenses, an automatic temporary restraining order requires that either party notify the other party of any large expenditure a minimum of five days before the cost is incurred. The party doing the spending will be required to give an account of large expenses incurred during the term of the automatic temporary restraining order to the court.
There is a very broad exception to this rule that allows the parties to spend regularly in the course of business and on things that are necessary in life. Because this definition can vary depending on each family, legal situation, and varying interpretations of the law, always check with your attorney if you are unsure about any expenditure.
When it comes to insurance policies, the two parties involved in the legal battle are likely to share insurance plans, and they may also share with minor children. Insurance plans, including life insurance, health insurance, automobile insurance, disability insurance, etc. which are held to benefit either party or their children may be included in the automatic temporary restraining order.
The ATRO prevents parties from cashing in on a life insurance policy and placing the funds in an individual or separate account. It prevents either party from changing the beneficiaries on any insurance policy or removing either a spouse or partner — even a soon to be former spouse or partner — or any minor children from any health, dental, or vision insurance plans.
This is especially important when it comes to covering a spouse or registered domestic partner on automobile, health, dental, and vision insurance policies; an automatic temporary restraining order prevents one party from removing the other from these policies.
Things That Are Allowed Under an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO)
Although automatic temporary restraining orders do prevent both parties in certain legal processes from taking certain actions, there are some things that are allowed in spite of the restrictions.
The parties are allowed to pay attorney fees in the case that brought up the automatic temporary restraining order. So, if the parties are divorcing, they are allowed to pay for divorce attorneys for both parties, even though that is a large expense.
The parties are allowed to create, revoke, or modify a will, trust, or other estate planning documents. However, the parties are not allowed to fund a trust with community property or funds. An ATRO does prohibit the creation of or modification of a nonprobate transfer. There are further restrictions and allowances when it comes to estate planning at this time, so it is best to discuss your case with your attorney rather than approaching your estate plan on your own.
Modifying an ATRO in California
If you, or the other party, believe that your automatic temporary restraining order is not expansive enough for your case, or if you wish to allow certain actions that an ATRO prohibits, either party may apply to have the ATRO modified to fit the specific needs of your family situation. Always discuss your options with a qualified attorney prior to modifying your ATRO; it is best to protect yourself and your children rather than take chances with your futures.
Enforcement of Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders in California
Violating an ATRO can come with serious consequences in California. In family court, a spouse or partner who violates the order can face restitution, fines, jail time, additional attorney fees and sanctions, or a contempt action. If you or your spouse or partner has violated an ATRO in California, you will need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
California Family Law Attorneys
If you are facing a family law situation that includes an ATRO, like a divorce, a legal separation, an annulment or a paternity action, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney experienced in that area of law. In California, any attorney who understands these areas of law will be able to help you understand an automatic temporary restraining order.
Contact the attorneys at Yanez & Associates today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Table of Contents
- 1 Automatic Restraining Order FAQ: What is an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) and how does it work?
- 2 What is an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order and How Does It Work in California?
- 3 When Does an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order Go Into Effect in California?
- 4 What Does an ATRO Do in California?
- 5 Things That Are Allowed Under an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO)
- 6 Modifying an ATRO in California
- 7 Enforcement of Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders in California
- 8 California Family Law Attorneys