By: Leslie Barrows
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Texas Courts: No standing orders in Tarrant County divorce, but mutual TROs are common
In many North Texas counties, standing orders are mandatory, but in Tarrant County most divorce cases involve mutual temporary restraining orders (TROs). If your divorce is in Denton County you will receive and are subject to standing orders that apply to everyone involved in a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship. The standing orders take effect with the filing of the lawsuit. Standing orders are a formalized version of a TRO, a set of rules require parties to maintain a status quo and refrain from certain behavior that could cause damage to parties to the divorce, children involved and property and assets. The biggest difference between standing orders and TROs is that a standing order is automatic and not requested by one of the parties. If your divorce is in Tarrant County you can decide with your lawyer whether a TRO is reasonable and necessary and whether you may agree to a mutual TRO.
What language is contained in most standing orders, such as in Denton County?
In accordance with the Texas Family Code, Denton County adopted and issues its standing order compelling parties to a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship to adhere to the following standard rules: (these bullet points are a general summary and not exact language).
- Not to disrupt children by removing them from the state to change residence, nor withdrawing them from school, hiding them from others, making disparaging remarks about the other spouse, or talking about the divorce case;
- Refrain from actions that are intended to harass, annoy, alarm abuse, torment or embarrass the other party. Don’t show up at their work to cause a scene;
- Preserving community marital property and funds during the divorce, and not destroying, removing, withdrawing, selling or transferring assets so that the proper divorce procedure may be used to properly account for and distribute community property consistent with Texas law;
- Preserving and not concealing personal and business records relevant to the parties and the marriage;
- Maintaining and not withdrawing or borrowing against insurance policies;
- Parties may engage in the regular course of family business during the case;
- Language regarding the service and application of the standing order.
What are the benefits of having TROs instead of standing orders in Tarrant County?
Some, all or none of the bullet point examples of the standing order above can or may be used in a TRO. Even though it is standard practice among some attorneys, others do not bother with a TRO unless there is a real and present threat of harm to one of the parties, children or assets at issue. In many cases, a TRO can start with a threat of harm or a threat that one party might, for example, raid and stash the contents of a safe deposit box at the bank.
In addition to being able to narrowly tailor the language of your custom TRO, when entering into a mutual TRO to which both parties agree to be bound during the pendency of the case, there are fewer or more potential violations depending on the amount and type of language used. People are not encouraged to hunt others down for violating standing orders, however, there can be situations where people read others’ actions as violations of the court’s order. This can lead to unnecessary conflict in the case. On the other hand, when custom language is used, the intent may be to use broader terms the parties know a judge may have to apply in the event on party starts pointing their finger at the other.
What happens if someone violates a TRO or a standing order?
It would be an understatement to say that judges strongly prefer the parties to a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship to obey the orders of their court. When people chose to ignore a court order they may be charged with direct or indirect contempt of court which can lead to fines and penalties including jail time.
Violations of orders not to disrupt children or people can lead to consequences as can violations offering the destruction, removal or wasting of community property. When the damages are financial in nature the party guilty of violating the order may be charged with reimbursing the marital estate for the value of the damage, plus penalties if the judge so orders.
Even if one party is accused of violating a TRO and not found in violation, the judge is not likely to be happy being the referee over a he-said, she-said match. Once you lose credibility with your divorce judge it may be difficult to reverse that damage. While the judge must act within the guidelines of the family code, remember they have broad discretion in many areas.
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