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Don’t Forget About the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders or ATRO’s

by Steve Fritsch on November 19, 2012

Most people when they file for divorce or dissolve a domestic partnership, do not read the “Summons” which is one of the initial documents that is filed and served on the opposing party.  While most parties are concerned with the information on the Petition, it is the Summons that contains some of the most important information and needs to be read and understood clearly.  The Summons contains the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders or “ATRO’s” as they are commonly referred to by attorneys and judges and are orders that have great significance and should not be ignored or violated.

The ATRO’s are located on Page 2 of the Summons and apply to any relationship status proceeding such as a dissolution (divorce), legal separation, nullity, paternity and domestic partnership.  They are automatic and go into effect immediately against the Petitioner upon the filing of the Petition and against the Respondent when he or she is served with the Petition.  Although the ATRO’s are automatic, they can be modified by stipulation or court order.  There are four Standard Family Law Restraining Orders that will be discussed further below.

ATRO #1:  Neither party may remove the minor child or children from the state without prior written consent of the opposing party or court order.  Violation of this Standard Family Law Restraining Order can be punishable as a felony so it is important to take this very seriously.  However, if the Petition is filed after the child has been removed from the state, there is no violation.  Also, a court may allow a child to remain out of the state if it is not in the child’s best interest to return.  An example could be if the child and parent are victims of domestic violence by the other parent and leave the state as a result of the domestic violence.  Although there are exceptions, it is always best to be cautious and seek permission from the opposing party or a court order.  If your spouse says it is ok for you and your child to leave the state after the Petition has been filed, make sure it is in writing.  A stipulation would be the best but at the very least obtain confirmation in an email.  If written permission is not obtained, you run the risk of having to return to California with the child.

ATRO #2:  No canceling, cashing, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage.  What this means is that neither party may take a spouse or the children’s names off of any insurance, e.g, medical, dental, auto, or life insurance.  There is always a question of what if the policy has run out, does the spouse have to renew it?  This is difficult to answer and again one should be cautious and renew the policy or seek permission from the court to not renew it.

ATRO #3:  No transferring, encumbering, concealing or disposing of any real or personal property without written consent of the party or a court order.  This applies to all types of property:  community, quasi-community and separate property.  Therefore, even if you received $50,000 of inheritance and have it in a money market account, you may not withdraw it all and purchase  a new car.  There are however exceptions.   This does not apply if such transfer or purchase  is done in the usual court of business or for the necessities of life.  For example, if your mortgage is $3000 per month or your property taxes are $7000, you may withdraw money to pay those expenses.  You also may withdraw money in order to pay an attorney.

ATRO #4:  No changes to non-probate transfers that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer.  There are exceptions here also.  You may write a will.  You may revoke a trust so long as notice is given and the instrument allows you to do so.  You may also eliminate survivorship interests so long as notice is given.  For example, if real property is held in joint tenancy you can sever the joint tenancy so long as notice is given.

As you can see, the ATRO’s are restrictive and need to be given the utmost attention.  Failure to do so or to follow them, could be very damaging to your case.  The court could remove your child from your custody or sanction you for transferring an asset.  Therefore, it is always advisable to  obtain written permission of the other party or a court order if you believe your action may violate the ATRO’s.

DISCLAIMER:  THE ABOVE ARTICLE IS WRITTEN FOR INFORMATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE IN ANY WAY.  IF YOU HAVE ANY LEGAL QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD SEEK AN ATTORNEY.

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