Judge Signing Temporary OrdersTemporary orders are instructions for spouses to follow while their divorce case is pending. Once temporary orders are filed, they generally last until the final divorce decree is issued.

The person filing for divorce (the petitioner) may request temporary orders at the same time as submitting the divorce petition. However, either spouse can request temporary orders or ask for a modification for these orders throughout the divorce process. Temporary orders can set the tone of the divorce early, and it's essential to have a lawyer by your side to help you set firm and reasonable boundaries.

What Details Are Included in Temporary Orders?

You should know that there are limits to what a court can do through temporary orders. , courts won’t order a permanent asset division, force the sale of the family home, give someone other than a judge or commissioner power over the parenting plan, or require the spouses to file a joint tax return.

That said, temporary orders can affect many different aspects of spouses’ lives, including:

  • Where you live. Orders decide who will live in the family home, pay related costs (such as utilities and mortgage payments), and drive which car until the divorce is final.
  • Your children. If you have children in common, the court may issue a temporary parenting plan dictating when you will have custody, where the children will live during the divorce, and who can make parenting-related decisions. The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to determine who should receive custody.
  • Your finances. Your financial responsibilities could include a child support order or temporary maintenance for your spouse.
  • Your employment. If your spouse is unemployed or doesn’t make enough to meet child support obligations, the court may order them to find full-time work at a level that befits their education and work history.
  • A spouse’s movements. If your spouse has reacted badly to the divorce, you could ask the court to place protective limitations on when and how they can contact you or your children.

Your Request Can Include Temporary Restraining Orders

There are some situations where a spouse cannot wait for standard temporary orders. In Washington state, petitioners could get immediate relief through:

Emergency Orders

A petitioner may request an Immediate Restraining Order, which can restrict a spouse’s movements and contact with the petitioner starting the same day as filing. Since the order is issued without input from the offending spouse, the petitioner must meet a high evidence threshold to get emergency relief.

If the court grants emergency relief, a return hearing date will be set to determine whether the emergency orders should expire or continue as part of the temporary orders.

Automatically-Issued Temporary Restraining Orders

Some counties in Washington state will automatically issue temporary restraining orders whenever a petitioner files for divorce or family law proceedings. These aren’t protection orders but rather safeguards to prevent both spouses from hiding assets. Automatic temporary orders may include provisions prohibiting transferring or selling property, changing or canceling insurance coverage, and or moving children out of their current home.

Automatic temporary orders are intended to act as a placeholder until spouses submit their own motions for temporary orders. A petitioner can file for temporary orders that revise the automatic restrictions, and the court will issue a ruling based on the facts of the case.

Let a Washington State Divorce Lawyer Guide Your Next Steps

We can listen to your concerns and explain your legal options if you’re unsure what to include in your request for temporary orders. Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny at (425) 460-0550 to arrange a private consultation. If you prefer we contact you, use our online contact form or read through our free guide, 9 Urban Myths about Divorce That Can Hurt You.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington