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What are Temporary Orders in a Family Law Case?

The terms “permanent orders” and “temporary orders” refer to the main two types of orders a family court can enter in a divorce, child custody, or child support case. There are distinctions and differences between the two types of orders, including what can be ordered, when the orders are in effect, and who can enter them.

“Temporary Orders” in a divorce or custody case are authorized pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes, C.R.S. 14-10-108. The basic grant of authority under this statutory section allows courts, whether magistrates or judges, to enter orders to govern, or be in effect, while a case is pending. Typical issues which might be contained in a temporary order are temporary parenting time (visitation), temporary parental responsibilities regarding the making of major decisions, temporary child support, temporary alimony (termed “maintenance” under statute), temporary use of property, and temporary payment of marital expenses or other financial obligations.

Statute indicates that temporary orders are largely designed to maintain the status quo parties to a divorce or custody case might have held while together, prior to the filing of the case. They can also be entered to establish new rules (a new status quo) which might be needed as a matter of fairness or the best interest of children. For example, at the outset of a divorce case, the primary breadwinner might leave, refusing to provide any financial help to the other party. In these situations, court intervention will be needed.

Temporary orders are technically not to be prejudicial when it comes time to determine permanent orders. However, most Denver divorce attorneys will tell you that, in fact, the temporary orders entered in a case can have a bearing on the final outcome when it comes time to litigate permanent orders. This is particularly true as relates to child custody issues, such as visitation or residential custody.

Though courts can deal with various issues while the case is pending, temporary orders will not deal with more permanent issues, such as disposition of marital property or the final allocation of marital debt. It should be noted that magistrates are generally not granted authority to enter permanent orders regarding division of marital property. This is a separate issue from temporarily determining who can use marital property during a divorce case, such as who might have use of the marital home or a specific vehicle.

When starting your divorce or custody case you should be aware that each court is different and some counties are hesitant to authorize a temporary orders hearing. In some cases, the court might say that permanent orders can be set rather quickly such that there really is no need for temporary orders. In some counties, you will need to request a temporary orders hearing while attending your statutorily mandated initial status conference, which generally takes place within 42 days of the case being filed. In other counties, the court will requiring the filing of a written motion for temporary orders, which should include listing the reasons why temporary orders are needed. When starting your case, it’s important to talk to your family law attorney about any temporary issues that need to be addressed. Temporary orders are different from emergency requests for relief, which may be governed by different statutory sections or courtroom procedures. Again, you should consult with your attorney regarding your options.

When it comes time to litigate temporary orders issues the parties will ultimately attend an evidentiary hearing in front of the judge or magistrate. This can entail actual testimony from parties and witnesses and the submission of exhibits or other tangible evidence. Some courts, being somewhat hesitant to allow too much time, may treat a temporary orders hearing more like a status conference. Parties always have the ability to come to agreements prior to the temporary orders hearing, which will then be put into a written stipulation and filed with the court.

Unlike a permanent orders hearing, many counties do not require some of the formal disclosure or procedural steps, such as disclosing witnesses, submitting a joint trial management certificate, or other formalities that come with a permanent orders hearing. Many counties will require mediation prior to the hearing.

Given the temporary nature, temporary orders are extinguished upon entry of final, permanent orders. Violations of any temporary orders can be brought to the attention of the court, perhaps via contempt of court proceedings, but only until the permanent orders are entered. Contempt or other enforcement motions tied into the temporary orders cannot be filed after permanent orders are entered. As such, these types of issues should also be made part of any permanent orders hearing. Finally, temporary orders can be modified, particularly as to support or parenting time.

If you are facing a divorce or custody case and need relief from the court, whether child or money related, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in Denver to understand your rights and options, as well as the court expectations you will be dealing with.