May I have an Order of Understanding Orders?

Half the “battle” of divorce and custody suits is understanding where you stand…pun intended, understanding Standing Orders to be exact. Quick scenario: You have been notified of a petition for divorce and attached is a long, confusing list of restrictions and demands. We often get frantic calls asking, ” I haven’t done anything! Why do I have a standing order”. Stand down. Remember the game “Five Alive”, each player is given five lives and the winner is the player with any lives left at the end of the game. Here are five points of clarity to keep you standing in the complex game of divorce

First point of clarity, this is a standard protocol for most Texas courts. So what this means is “no one has done this to you.” It is not an evil plot from the opposing party to turn your world upside down. Standing Orders are not requested by either spouse or the opposing party, rather they are issued by the court. Contrary to what many may think, these orders are actually put in place to provide stability, protection and “normalcy” to all in involved while undergoing a strenuous family law case. One of the most important concerns of the court is that the children are not exposed to any sort of behavior that may make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe during your legal case.

Second point of clarity, parties are generally ordered to act civilly towards each other, refrain from spending large sums of money, refrain from talking negatively about their spouse in front of the children, refrain from hiding the children from the other party, and refrain from harassing the other parties. Essentially, Standing Orders restrict you and the opposing party from certain behaviors or misconduct related to property, finances, business records and insurance, to name a few. Some examples include:

  1. Doing anything to harm, destroy or sell any property or any document relevant to the property.
  2. Making any withdrawal of funds from any account, including savings accounts or retirement funds.
  3. Incurring new debt and limiting or canceling charge cards already in either party’s possession.
  4. Terminating any services, such as utilities, cable television, Internet services, housekeeping or lawn maintenance.
  5. Communicating with the other party’s employer except for a legitimate business purpose.
  6. Maintain personal and business records and refrain from: “concealing, destroying, disposing of, or altering” any records or documents relevant to any issue in the divorce process.
  7. If there is insurance, neither party is to change the beneficiary or withdraw any funds from the policy during the divorce. No policy can be canceled or altered and this includes health insurance, life insurance, homeowners or renters’ insurance and car insurance.

Third point of clarity, standing orders automatically go into effect immediately upon filing the petition for divorce or a suit that affects a parent-child relationship. They are intended to act as a placeholder until you and the opposing party are able to either settle upon Temporary Orders or attend a hearing in which your judge will set out some Temporary Orders. A standing order is effective until the court enters an order that either changes the standing order or eliminates it.

Fourth point of clarity, A standing order is a court order. If you violate a court order, you risk starting your case with unpleasant conduct. If one of the spouses violates the standing order, it can negatively impact that spouse’s case.

Fifth point of clarity, If your court requires a standing order, the actual order can be located on the clerk’s website. You should print it out and read it carefully. If you do not understand the standing orders, please consult a qualified family law attorney.

These orders are issued to keep you and your children’s livelihood in place. Approach the process with understanding… and keep standing.

Please Note: It is imperative to consult a lawyer to ascertain which factors would affect your specific case.

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