Temporary Orders in Utah Family Law Cases

Temporary Orders in Utah Family Law Cases

You can ask the Court to enter “temporary orders” after filing a Utah divorce, custody, or paternity action. These orders address important issues such as child custody, parent-time / visitation, child support, alimony, possession of a home, division of property, responsibility for paying debts, restraining orders, etc. between the period when a case is first filed until is resolved at trial or a negotiated settlement. Courts generally schedule these to be heard on an expedited basis.  These orders may be in effect anywhere from a couple weeks to in some cases years. While these orders are not binding on how the Judge ultimately decides the case at trial, they tend to carry significant weight. In other words, if the status quo is working well the Judge may continue that arrangement.

If you are filing a brand new case the Court has broad discretion in deciding what temporary orders to enter. Child custody decisions will be based on the children’s best interest and financial decisions will be based on what the court feels is equitable.

Effective November 2019, certain orders will go into effect automatically in new domestic cases when the initial petition is filed. Those are:

  1. Neither party may disturb the peace of or harass the other party.
  2. Neither party may commit domestic violence or abuse against the other party or a child.
  3. Neither party may use the other party’s name, likeness, image, or identification to obtain credit, open an account for service, or obtain a service.
  4. Neither party may cancel or interfere with telephone, utility, or other services used by the other party.
  5. Neither party may cancel, modify, terminate, change the beneficiary, or allow to lapse for voluntary nonpayment of premiums, any policy of health insurance, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, automobile insurance, or life insurance without the written consent of the other party or pursuant to further order of the court.

If the parties have a child under age 18 together then:

  1. Neither party may engage in non-routine travel with the child without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court unless the following information has been provided to the other party: (a) an itinerary of travel dates and destinations; (b) how to contact the child or traveling party; and (c) the name and telephone number of an available third person who will know the child’s location.
  2. Neither party may do the following in the presence or hearing of the child: (a) demean or disparage the other party; (b) attempt to influence a child’s preference regarding custody or parent time; or (c) say or do anything that would tend to diminish the love and affection of the child for the other party, or involve the child in the issues of the petition.
  3. Neither party may make parent time arrangements through the child.
  4. When the child is under the party’s care, the party has a duty to use best efforts to prevent third parties from doing what the parties are prohibited from doing under this order or the party must remove the child from those third parties.

If you are seeking to modify a final order (such as a divorce decree) the standard for obtaining temporary orders is higher. Generally the court cannot modify a final order while a petition to modify it is pending.  There is an exception in child custody/parent-time cases if you request temporary orders to (1) ratify changes made by the parties, (2) protect the child from immediate and irreparable harm, or (3) if either parent is moving 150 miles or more away. Child support may only be modified on a temporary basis if the court temporarily modifies custody or parent-time.  The Court has discretion to resolve ambiguities in its prior order so long as it does not modify the order in the process.

In short, in modification cases you may have to wait until final trial or a settlement can be reached to modify your order. This can be frustrating for individuals going through the modification process who want to change the order as quickly as possible. Conversely, if you are wanting to keep the order as is then this rule is wonderful to have.

Parties can sometimes get around these barriers to temporary orders by asking the court to ratify changes made by the parties. The most obvious example of this would be a formal settlement agreement. But such changes do not have formalized in a written agreement. It is common for parents to follow custody and parent-time arrangements different than that envisioned by their court order. For example, perhaps the order says the parents would share equal custody but over time dad ends up caring for the children most of the time while the mom exercises occasional visits. The court could adopt that arrangement as a new temporary order.

Another exception is situations of immediate and irreparable harm. This is generally for emergency situations where the court needs to act right away to protect a child from imminent danger. Possible examples include a parent who is actively engaged in child abuse, serious criminal activity, or is neglecting the child’s basic needs.

Do you have questions about temporary orders in your family law case? If so give us a call at 855-254-2600.

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