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.

FAQ about temporary orders

Many questions arise concerning temporary divorce orders. Here are some of the most common ones.

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.

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.



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.