Temporary Orders for Alimony and Child Support


Many divorce cases involve temporary orders issued by a judge to determine alimony and child support payments, as well as actual child custody terms.

As their name says, temporary orders are not permanent. They’re not intended to have a long-term, binding effect on a divorce settlement (though temporary orders can influence the final decree if the temporary setup appears to be working).

Many unhappy couples see a divorce coming, and they may have even discussed how they’ll divide their assets and parenting time. On the other hand, a lot of divorces happen quickly or without warning. Sometimes one spouse just leaves. Then what?

If it’s a case where the remaining spouse needs financial support right away or there is a child custody battle looming, a judge will step in. A family court then issues a temporary order to determine custody schedules, who gets the house, who pays alimony and support, and so on.

Length of temporary orders

The temporary order establishes basic rules as a stopgap measure, so it’s only meant to apply until the final details of a divorce can be worked out between the couple’s divorce attorneys and a judge. Temporary orders usually stay in effect until the spouses agree on a settlement or until there’s another court hearing.

How long that takes will depend on several factors. For example, a permanent divorce decree needs to reflect the value of the couple’s financial assets and that disclosure may take a while. The court also needs to determine how to divide child custody, which could require weeks or months of interviews, depositions, custody evaluations, etc.

If the final divorce settlement drags on and one spouse wants to change the temporary order (e.g., if family expenses suddenly change), a request can be made for the judge to revisit the case and issue a supplemental ruling to adjust the temporary order, if it’s deemed necessary.

How to request a temporary divorce order

The reasons for a temporary divorce order often represent some financial urgency, so family courts tend to fast-track many requests through the system.

After a divorce lawyer has filed paperwork to request a temporary order, the petitioning spouses and their lawyers will meet with the judge. This usually happens within a few weeks. The judge will want to hear testimony and see evidence (such as income statements, family expenses, budgets, etc.) to justify the request for alimony and child support payments, custody changes, etc. Witnesses may also be called.

In most cases, these hearings are brief and relatively informal, compared to a normal divorce proceeding. Some rulings take less than an hour.

Work with divorce attorneys who understand your needs

Whether you have been expecting a divorce or you are suddenly confronted with one, you’ll want a qualified, dependable divorce attorney on your side. Be sure to choose your representation based on a solid resume of divorce experience and familiarity with your state laws.

An experienced attorney can help ensure you are not stuck with an unfair set of temporary orders for alimony and child support that could potentially be transitioned into the final decree.

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