Interim Orders in Divorce
The average California divorce takes about 15 months to complete. Meanwhile, life goes on. If you move out of your family’s home, where will your children live for the next 15 months or so? How will you and your spouse share child-rearing expenses? Since two households are more expensive than one, how will you pay your bills?
If you and your spouse cannot agree, you might need the court to address these matters by issuing interim orders.
What Is the California Divorce Process?
It is useful to break down the California divorce process into the following 10 steps:
- Make sure you really want a divorce and hire a family law attorney.
- File for divorce by preparing and submitting the appropriate papers to the court clerk and pay the filing fee.
- Serve divorce papers on your spouse. California law requires you to formally notify your spouse of divorce proceedings.
- Wait for your spouse to respond to the divorce petition. Your spouse cannot stop the divorce, but they can contest issues such as property division, child support, and child custody. You may be able reach an agreement with your spouse instead of fighting it out in court.
- Each side can ask the judge to issue interim orders that apply while the divorce is pending.
- Each spouse must disclose information about their finances, so the court will know what is marital property and what is not.
- Engage in the discovery process. This process is a court-supervised and each spouse can demand evidence that is in the possession of the other spouse.
- Settle your differences amicably if possible. The court may veto certain terms even if both spouses agree. Some terms might not enhance the best interests of the children, for example.
- You may go to trial. The court will issue a permanent, binding divorce decree.
- Litigate or agree upon post-judgment issues. You can still change terms of the agreement if circumstances change. For example, if one spouse remarries.
As you can see, interim orders come into focus about midway through the 10-step divorce process. Timewise, however, they can come very early in the process, because the resolution of some issues simply cannot wait.
Overview of the Process for Obtaining an Interim (Temporary) Order
If you need the divorce court to issue an interim order on any related matter such as child support, child custody, or alimony, proceed as follows:
- File a motion with the court: Depending on the nature of the order you are seeking, complete the appropriate form. Different forms apply to different requests.
- Serve papers on your spouse: You must notify your spouse of your request so that they can oppose it if they so choose. The court cannot issue a valid divorce decree unless you serve papers on your spouse using appropriate documentation.
- Wait for your spouse to respond: Your spouse has the right to respond to your motion. Typically, your spouse has nine working days to respond.
- Attend a hearing in court: At the hearing, you and your spouse can both present your arguments and evidence to the judge. Either side can use lawyers. Evidence can include financial information, testimony, etc.
- Wait for the judge’s decision: The judge will decide on your motion and may issue an interim order.
- Enforcement and modification: The court will step in to enforce an order that either party ignores. If circumstances change, either party can ask the court to modify the terms of the order.
An interim order can remain in effect until the judge issues a permanent order. The permanent order might mirror the terms of the interim order.
Temporary Child Custody
It is almost always best to reach an agreement with your spouse on child custody arrangements. If you cannot agree, however, you can file an “Order to Show Cause for Temporary Custody.” The court can require you to attend mediation. A mediator cannot force you to agree–they can only seek to facilitate an agreement.
If you doubt the mental health or parenting competence of your spouse, you might also ask the judge to order a “730 child custody evaluation”.
Do not ignore pursuing “temporary” child custody arrangements while you are busy with other matters. In California, temporary child custody arrangements typically become permanent arrangements, because courts don’t like to move children around. Once a judge issues a temporary custody order, the eventual permanent custody order can look the same.
Temporary Child Support
California has a child support formula that is applied in every case. The most important factors in setting child support are the parents’ incomes and the amount of time that each parent spends with the child. Many other factors are relevant. So many, in fact, that California relies on a software program known as Dissomaster to calculate child support.
That doesn’t mean you can just plug in numbers and “poof!” out comes the amount of child support. Many of the factors involved are ambiguous, and lawyers can argue about their value. In many cases, the amount of child support that one spouse must pay depends on the skill of their lawyer versus the skill of their spouse’s lawyer.
Temporary Spousal Support
Temporary spousal support, traditionally known as alimony, is an amount of money that one spouse supplies to the other spouse. Suppose, for example, that one spouse moves out of the family home during divorce proceedings. The other spouse might be left with no income, or with insufficient income, for the duration of divorce proceedings. Temporary spousal support provides a way for one spouse to survive financially after separation but before the divorce is finalized.
Not all divorce cases involve spousal support. It is most likely to apply when one spouse’s income is much higher than the other’s. Traditionally, spousal support was designed to ensure the financial support of a stay-at-home wife after divorce. Courts use it in other situations as well, and it doesn’t always go from husband to wife anymore.
The court calculates spousal support in accordance with certain principles and guidelines. Los Angeles courts, for example, apply a guideline known as the Santa Clara Guideline formula to calculate temporary spousal support. If the paying spouse is also paying child support, the court will calculate child support first, and then calculate spousal support.
Hire a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney Immediately
If you are involved in a divorce proceeding without a lawyer, you are at an immediate disadvantage. If your spouse has retained a lawyer, your disadvantage is even more serious. Considering how often “interim” orders become permanent, don’t wait for a judge to issue an interim order hoping to change the arrangement later.