To protect the children and help ensure a fair divorce settlement, California law places automatic restrictions on the parties in a divorce. Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) — though they may sound frightening — exist to get the divorce process off to a fair start.

When the summons is served at the beginning of a divorce, it includes an ATRO in accordance with California Family Code, which imposes the following restrictions:

  • Neither parent may remove any minor children from the state or apply for a child’s passport without obtaining written content from the other parent or from the court.
  • With certain exceptions, neither spouse may make any changes to property ownership without written consent of the other spouse or consent of the court.
  • Neither spouse may cash in or otherwise transfer funds from an insurance policy that’s held for the benefit of anyone in the family.
  • Neither spouse may create or change a non-probate transfer without written consent of the other spouse or the court.

While most parents do not resort to taking the children out of state prior to divorce, I have seen many cases during my career as a California divorce attorney in which spouses try to hide assets, transfer funds or take other actions to gain a financial advantage.

Of course, you don’t need a lawyer for every marital disagreement. But if you foresee the possibility of divorce in the not-too-distant future, early advice from an experienced family lawyer can help ensure you take the measures necessary to protect yourself from actions by your spouse that may harm you or your children.