What Is an ATRO and How Does It Affect Your Divorce?

If you’re getting ready for a divorce in California, you may have heard the term “ATRO” before. However, it’s not always clear what ATROs are or how they affect your divorce. 

This is a problem because understanding and following your ATRO is critical to handling divorces in California. Here’s what you need to know about these orders and how they impact you. 

What Is an ATRO?

Let’s start with an easy question: what does ATRO stand for? ATRO is short for “automatic temporary restraining order.” These orders are different from the type of restraining order portrayed on T.V., though. Unlike a protective order, an ATRO does not require one party to be in danger and does not last indefinitely. Instead, as their name implies, ATROs go into effect automatically in certain situations and last until a defined deadline. 

Specifically, ATROs occur when someone files for divorce. The paperwork on the divorce summons includes the order, so it applies as soon as the document is served. The order remains in effect until the divorce is finalized or both spouses agree to call off the proceedings.

These orders do not prohibit spouses from communicating with each other or going to certain places. They are primarily financial orders that restrict subjects from performing certain activities that would make it difficult to divide assets fairly or determine child custody. That is why ATROs apply to both spouses equally; they are intended to protect both parties, not punish them. 

What ATROs Mean for California Couples

So, what does it mean for you if you receive a California ATRO on a family law summons? It means you cannot make specific changes to your bank and investment accounts, insurance policies, or where your children live. In California, ATROs restrict you from:

  • Selling, transferring, giving away, or otherwise disposing of any significant property without the court’s or your spouse’s written permission.
  • Making “extraordinary” expenditures without giving your spouse at least five business days’ notice and explaining it to the court.
  • Canceling, transferring, cashing, or changing any insurance policy.
  • Taking shared minor children out of their home state without written permission from their other parent or the court.
  • Applying for a passport for a shared minor child without the written permission of the court or the other parent.

These rules prevent divorcing couples from attempting to hide assets, hurt each other financially, or kidnap the children. While the rules sound restrictive, they allow you to continue making purchases, selling property, and giving gifts in the “usual course of business.” You can even take your children on international vacations if you get permission from the court or your spouse. However, if you violate the terms of the ATRO, you may face a violation of ATRO divorce penalty, including fines and potentially even criminal charges. 

Expert Legal Counsel for Following ATROs in California

ATROs can be confusing, but you don’t have to decipher them alone. At Viola Law Firm, P.C., we are dedicated to helping our clients navigate complex family law matters. Schedule your consultation with one of our skilled divorce ATRO attorneys to learn how we can help you manage your split and avoid facing an unnecessary violation of ATRO divorce penalty.

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