Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders

Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATRO) advice of the four standard family law restraining orders which start immediately once a dissolution is commenced and restrain the parties from taking certain actions absent a written agreement or a court order. When the Petitioner spouse files the divorce petition, the ATROs bind the Petitioner. When the Respondent spouse is served, the ATROs bind the Respondent.

Essentially ATROS are measures to maintain the status quo and instruct spouses what actions they cannot take that would harm the minor children of the marriage and community and separate assets. Generally, ATROs are not intended to stop conduct that was already started before the petition. ATROS stay in effect against both spouses until there is a court order that modifies them, the petition is dismissed or there is a final judgment.

The following are the four ATROs outlined on the Family Law Summons:

(1) The first ATRO instructs the father and mother they cannot remove the children from the state. They also instruct the parties that neither may apply for new or replacement passwords for the kids.

(2) The second ATRO advises the parties against “cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability held for the benefit of the parties and their child or children for whom support may be ordered.”

(3) The third ATRO tells each spouse they are restrained from “transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community, or separate,” once again without the other spouse’s written consent or a court order. The exception being if any of these actions are taken “in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life.”

(4) A fourth ATRO also set forth rules against creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonprobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer, without the other party’s written consent or a court order.

Under California public policy spouses owe each other the same highest duties owed by parties to a fiduciary relationship.  Failure to comply with the ATROs can result in contempt citations or allegations for breach of fiduciary duty.

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