Though the phrase “restraining order” conjures up certain terrible images in most people’s minds, the fact is a Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) does not have the some connotation in a divorce setting. Rather than being used to help protect a battered wife, TROs are documents that can help ensure mutual respect between spouses and can serve to set some ground rules regarding appropriate behavior regarding money, acting like financial restraining orders.
In South Carolina, it is very common for separation or divorce actions to include a request for a TRO, to prevent either spouse from engaging in the following acts:
- borrowing against or selling property;
- borrowing against or selling insurance held for the benefit of the other spouse;
- modifying beneficiaries on insurance policies;
- modifying bank accounts; or
- hiding assets.
A TRO thus works to stop either party from changing the financial status quo. This works to preserve the family’s finances as it was at the time the divorce was filed so that neither party is allowed to unilaterally change the couple’s financial situation. They can be especially useful in cases where one party has control over the family finances and often act as way of leveling the playing field.
Though TROs cover most financial situations, there are some exceptions. For one thing, you are almost always allowed to use your assets to retain an attorney. Parties are also permitted to spend their money in the usual course of business. While what qualifies as “usual” can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder, most people understand which expenses are typically and which are extreme or outrageous.
Typically, the request for the TRO is included as part of a Motion for Temporary Relief, which is usually heard within approximately four weeks from the date the action was filed. If the Court grants the TRO (which is common), it becomes effective immediately after the temporary hearing and remains in effect until the action is concluded and a Final Order is issued.
While TROs are automatically issued in some states upon the filing of a divorce, that is not the case in South Carolina. However, TROs are seen as routine elements of a typical divorce and are issued in the overwhelming majority of cases where there are assets and debts to be allocated between the parties. The Court recognizes that it is in the best interest of both parties to protect the marital estate until it can be equitably divided between the parties.
Source: “Divorcing Women: Here’s What You Need to Know About ATROs,” by Jeff Landers, published at Forbes.com.