What Are Temporary Orders, and Why Would You Want Them?

Temporary orders in a divorce proceeding can prove invaluable to help set boundaries and guidelines between divorcing spouses, especially those who may struggle to get along. A temporary divorce order provides you and your spouse with ground rules during your divorce proceedings. The order expires upon receiving your final divorce decree.

Temporary divorce orders may be used to determine who lives in your marital home, who pays certain bills, who gets the car, and, if you have minor children, what the shared parenting schedule looks like during the divorce procedure. Without a temporary order from the court, you and your spouse must informally agree on all of these issues and more – which can be hard if you don’t get along. 

What are temporary orders in divorce?

When you get a divorce, whether you and your spouse agree on all terms or need a judge to step in and decide things for you, your final divorce order will spell out the terms as to who gets what, how things are split, and where your minor children will live, if you have them. 

Temporary divorce orders offer you and your spouse a way to address some issues before a final divorce decree is given by the court. These issues may include:

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Health insurance
  • Possession of the marital home
  • Possession of a vehicle

To activate temporary orders, you may need to make a request for order (RFO). This requires you to petition the court after you file for divorce. In your petition, you must clearly state why you are asking for the temporary order, what it should include, and how long it should last. Most temporary orders in divorce last until the final divorce decree is issued.

Why ask for temporary orders?

A person might make a request for an order for a number of reasons. The divorce process often takes many months. In complex and contentious divorces, it can take years. A temporary order from the court can make life during the divorce process a little smoother because there is less uncertainty about custody arrangements, child support payments, parenting plans, and the like.

Let’s look at a few examples of when a temporary order might be helpful. Remember, requesting a temporary divorce order is only necessary if you and your spouse cannot agree informally.

  • Let's say you and your spouse have a minor child, and your spouse works while you stay home with the child. This could be a scenario where you request a temporary child custody order. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets custody of the child or what each spouse’s parenting time will be like during divorce proceedings, a temporary order will set guidelines for you.
  • Similarly, if you don’t work, you may request temporary child support payments and spousal support payments. Courts can order temporary spousal support, which allows you to receive monthly payments from your spouse during divorce proceedings. This helps you manage your financial situation and prepare to rejoin the workforce to support yourself after divorce. 
  • You might also request a court order mandating that your spouse vacate the marital home. Especially if your spouse has been abusive, this is something the court will take seriously and enact quickly.

Temporary orders usually require immediate consideration. If you and your spouse cannot agree on something, a court can quickly step in to help resolve the dispute and provide guardrails for each of you. This gives legally binding guidelines for you both to follow. In addition, if your spouse fails to abide by a temporary court order, you have a legal avenue to hold them accountable. This is not something you can do with an informal agreement.

How to obtain temporary orders 

Obtaining temporary orders can be a helpful step to ensure that both spouses' needs are met during a divorce. Here’s how to obtain temporary orders:

1. Understand your jurisdiction's requirements

Each state (and sometimes even your county) may have specific laws and protocols. Find your court’s information on your local family court's website or ask the court clerk.

2. File a petition/motion

You or your attorney must file a petition or motion for temporary orders with the court where you filed for divorce. This document outlines your requests for temporary arrangements and the reasons why. 

3. Serve the other spouse

After filing it, you must serve a copy to your spouse (the other party) so they are aware of your requests and have an opportunity to respond. Follow your court’s accepted method(s) for serving these papers.

4. Attend a hearing

The court will schedule a hearing so you can both present any arguments regarding the temporary orders. At the hearing, you will need to be prepared to:

  • Present evidence and witnesses to support your requests.
  • Allow your attorney (if you have one) to advocate on your behalf.
  • Answer the judge’s questions to allow them to understand the situation better.

5. The judge makes a formal decision

After considering the evidence and arguments, the judge will issue temporary orders (or deny the request). These orders will remain in effect until a final divorce decree is issued or until the court modifies them.

6. Comply with the temporary orders

Both parties must follow the temporary orders. Violating them can result in legal consequences (see below).

7. Modification of temporary orders

If circumstances change, either spouse can request a modification of the orders by filing a motion with the court and attending another hearing.

Tips for success with temporary orders

  • Document everything: Keep detailed records of all interactions and transactions relevant to the orders.
  • Be honest and respectful: The blame game won’t help you here. Courts favor honesty and cooperation. Present your case truthfully and avoid unnecessary conflicts.
  • Consult an attorney: If your request for temporary orders involves high conflict, abuse, or other safety concerns, it might be worth seeing a lawyer. 
  • Prioritize children: If you have kids, focus on their best interests when requesting custody and support arrangements.

Consequences of non-compliance

Failing to adhere to temporary orders can have several serious legal consequences. These orders are legally binding. Here’s a clear breakdown of the potential repercussions:

1. Contempt of court

Contempt of court is a serious consequence of not following temporary orders. Being found in contempt means that you have disobeyed a court order, which can lead to:

  • Fines
  • Jail time (in severe cases)
  • Additional legal fees

2. Modification of orders against you

If you fail to comply, the court could modify the orders in a way that is less favorable to you. For example, the court could reduce your parenting or custodial time. Ignoring child support or spousal support orders can result in wage garnishment or seizure of assets.

3. Damage to your case

Failing to adhere to court orders can harm your credibility and standing in the eyes of the court. Judges may view you less favorably, which could influence their decisions in the final divorce decree.

4. Enforcement actions

The court can take various actions to ensure compliance with temporary orders:

  • Wage garnishment: They can order your employer to withhold a portion of your wages to fulfill support obligations.
  • Liens on property: The court can place liens on your property, which must be satisfied before you can sell or refinance the property.
  • Interception of tax refunds: They can intercept your state or federal tax refunds to cover overdue support payments.

5. Civil penalties

In addition to criminal penalties like fines and imprisonment, civil penalties can include:

  • Compensatory damages
  • Paying the other spouse’s attorney fees

6. Impact on custody and visitation rights

For parents, non-compliance with custody and visitation orders can have severe repercussions such as loss of custody and reduced or supervised visitation if non-compliance puts the child at risk.

7. Credit damage

Failure to comply with financial orders can result in:

The legal consequences of not adhering to temporary orders are substantial and can have long-lasting effects on your legal standing, financial situation, and personal relationships. Compliance with court orders is essential to avoid these negative outcomes and to ensure a fair and orderly resolution of the divorce proceedings. If you are struggling to comply with temporary orders, you may want to seek legal advice.

Examples of state-specific laws related to temporary orders

Here's an overview of how some states handle temporary orders and the specific laws or rules that govern them.


  • Relevant statutes: California Family Code Sections 2045, 2047, 2400-2406.
  • Process: Parties file a Request for Order (RFO) to ask the court for temporary orders related to child custody, support, etc.
  • Special considerations: California courts often require mediation for child custody and visitation disputes before a hearing on temporary orders.


  • Relevant statutes: Texas Family Code Sections 6.501-6.505, 105.001.
  • Process: Temporary orders are typically requested by filing a Motion for Temporary Orders with the court.
  • Special considerations: Texas allows for temporary restraining orders (TROs) to prevent specific actions, like transferring property, until a hearing takes place.

New York

  • Relevant statutes: New York Domestic Relations Law Sections 234, 237, 240.
  • Process: Temporary orders can be requested by filing an Order to Show Cause or a Notice of Motion.
  • Special considerations: Temporary maintenance (spousal support/alimony) is determined by a formula, and temporary child support follows state guidelines.


  • Relevant statutes: Florida Statutes Sections 61.071, 61.13, 61.14.
  • Process: Temporary orders are obtained by filing a Motion for Temporary Relief.
  • Special considerations: Florida courts prioritize the best interests of the child in custody matters and use specific guidelines to determine child support.


  • Relevant statutes: Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/501).
  • Process: Temporary orders are requested via a Petition for Temporary Relief.
  • Special considerations: Illinois law requires that both spouses provide full financial disclosures first.

FAQ about temporary orders

How do I obtain temporary orders?

Before requesting a temporary order in your divorce, you first need to try to resolve the dispute with your spouse. The court will ask you if you’ve attempted to resolve the matter first.

Once it’s clear that you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on an issue, and you’ve filed your petition for dissolution of marriage, you need to file a request for a temporary order. In your request, there will likely be a temporary order hearing. At your court hearing, provide clear reasons why they should grant the order, what the matter pertains to, and why your chosen path for resolving the matter is the right one.

While this process varies by state, you may also be required to go before a judge to discuss the matter. This hearing usually takes place fairly soon after you file your request for a temporary order because the court understands the matter requires prompt attention. Prepare to discuss your request for a temporary order and to support your claim at the hearing. A judge may rule on the spot, or they may take a day or two to consider both arguments before making a final ruling.

What issues can temporary orders address?

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony or maintenance)
  • Use of the marital home and other property
  • Payment of debts
  • Temporary restraining orders or protective orders if necessary

How long do temporary orders last?

They remain in effect until a final divorce decree is issued or until the court modifies them. 

How does the court decide on temporary orders?

The court considers various factors, including the best interests of the children, the financial situation of each party, and any evidence presented by both parties during the hearing.

What evidence should I bring to the hearing?

Bring all relevant documentation, such as financial statements, pay stubs, communications from the other spouse, and evidence of unhealthy or unreliable parenting.

Can temporary orders include restraining orders?

Yes, if there is a need for protection due to abuse, neglect, or other safety concerns.

Can temporary orders be enforced across state lines?

Yes, temporary orders can be enforced across state lines under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and other applicable interstate enforcement laws.

How are temporary child support orders calculated?

When you need temporary child support, you make a request as you would for any other matter. How a judge calculates the financial impact of this, however, varies by state.

The calculation is usually the same as a regular child support order and is based on a number of factors. Child support orders, even temporary ones, are always made with the child’s best interest in mind, regardless of the state where you live.

Factors a court may consider include the following:

  • Each parent’s income and earning potential
  • Each parent's personal assets
  • The number of children involved in the requested temporary support
  • The ages of the child or children
  • Whether one parent has primary custody

When requesting a temporary support order, keep in mind that the temporary calculation will probably be less than the final support order. Temporary support orders are only intended to meet the immediate and short-term needs of a child.

A final support order is intended to provide financial support for the child in the long term and will include additional items such as entertainment, extracurricular activities, and even a share of your child’s allowance. 

What should I do if I’m served with temporary orders?

If your spouse has requested a temporary order, they must provide you with a copy of the filing. This is called the service of process. They’ll need to alert you to their request before a court can make a decision.

When you get the paperwork, don’t delay. You will have limited time to respond, and by the time you get copies of the request, the hearing may be just a few days away. Make sure you attend the hearing and take a position with the judge. Don’t be argumentative, but do stand up for your interests. If you think the request is out of line or unreasonable, say so. But also be prepared to back up your statements with objective facts and evidence.

If a judge enters a temporary order in your divorce proceeding, whether you agree with it or think it’s an error, do not ignore it. That could get you into even more trouble. Abide by the order, following the terms outlined. For example, if you’re required to vacate the marital home by a certain date, start getting your affairs in order so you can be out by the required date. You could ask the judge to reconsider their decision, but you’d need to give them a good reason to do so.

Conclusion: Navigating temporary orders 

Temporary orders are designed to provide stability and address immediate needs related to child custody, support payments, and the use of marital property while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. Each state has specific laws and procedures governing these orders, making it essential for individuals to be well-informed about the requirements in their jurisdiction.

Successfully obtaining and adhering to temporary orders involves several key steps: filing the appropriate motions, serving the other party, presenting evidence at a hearing, and complying with the court's directives. Non-compliance can result in serious legal consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and negative impacts on the final divorce decree.

If you need help with temporary orders, you may wish to book some flat-rate time with one of our attorneys who can guide you through the process or try mediation to resolve conflicts with your spouse before filing the orders.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.