Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders in California Divorce


When people in California begin research into the possibility of divorce, they often come across the phrase “automatic temporary restraining order” (ATRO) and wonder what, exactly, the phrase means.  Certainly an ATRO sounds imposing, and many people are disturbed that they haven’t actually requested any sort of restraining order, and worry that it will put their divorce into a negative and combative atmosphere.

The Facts of the ATRO

ATROs are temporary restraining orders in California that are automatically put in place when one party files for divorce from another.  They come into force as to the filer the moment the divorce paperwork is filed, and they come into force as to the other spouse as soon as they are served.   Hence the adjective “automatic”: Neither party has the ability to choose or rejectATROs, they are imposed as a matter of law on all couples seeking to dissolve their marriages.

What Do Temporary Restraining Orders in California Do?

There are four ATROs applied to every divorce in California, barring each spouse from:

  • Removing children from the state
  • Hiding or otherwise obfuscating financial information
  • Cashing in insurance policies
  • Transferringof property to another person

In short, these temporary restraining orders in California are designed to prevent either spouse from unfairly manipulating either their children or the marriage’s financial assets.  A good way to think of them is that they serve to keep the playing field level and fair, and prevent either spouse from “cheating.”  They remain in effect until a judge issues a court order adjusting or negating them.   If not done beforehand, they are typically terminated in the final divorce decree.

There is one caveat; these ATROs do make exceptions for the normal financial transactions that are deemed necessary to everyday living, which can sometimes form a significant gray area in some divorce proceedings.