One of the most critical initial steps a court takes in a Stillwater divorce is the issuance of the automatic temporary injunction. You may not have heard about this important tool, but if you are contemplating or beginning a divorce in Stillwater, Oklahoma, you will need to understand what it is and how it will affect you, your spouse, and the divorce proceeding in general. Here is what you need to know.
What is an Injunction Anyway?
An injunction is a court order. This kind of order is usually temporary, but some injunctions can become permanent. For the most part, an injunction prohibits a person from doing something. For example, a protective order also known as a “stay away” order, is a type of injunction that prohibits a person from making contact with another person. These orders are often issued by courts in domestic assault cases.
Other injunctions require a person to perform a particular act or set of acts. These are sometimes called positive or affirmative injunctions because they require a person to engage in an affirmative act instead of prohibiting a type of action. The automatic temporary injunction is a little bit of both types mixed into one order.
What Triggers the Automatic Injunction?
The automatic temporary injunction is triggered by the filing of a petition for divorce in Stillwater. It doesn’t matter whether you file for divorce or whether your spouse does, upon filing, the court automatically issues the injunction. No hearing is required. The injunction remains in place until the court can issue more permanent orders regarding finances, custody, and support.
An automatic temporary injunction is usually mandatory. Waivers are possible, but not routine. There are certain circumstances in which certain portions of it may be waived. Both parties must sign the waiver for it to be effective, and even then, it may only be effective for a small portion of the overall injunction.
The Automatic Temporary Injunction Affects Assets
The court is interested in both parties to a divorce being treated fairly during the divorce process. It is unfair if a spouse cleans out accounts, hides assets, or tries to sell or otherwise encumber assets to prevent the other spouse from getting them.
To that end, the injunction acts to freeze all marital assets outside of the regular day-to-day expenditures that are necessary for living. The injunction expressly prevents either party from making changes to the assets. The injunction is broad and includes the taking, selling, and cambering, concealing, or disposing of any marital assets including retirement accounts, insurance policies, and the like without the prior written consent of both parties or an order from the court.
It also prevents the parties from making any changes with regard to beneficiaries or beneficiary designations on all financial accounts and documents. If there is a dispute between the parties about what constitutes marital vs. personal assets, the court will need evidence to make a determination in that regard.
A spouse may not open or divert mail that is addressed to the other spouse or sign the other spouse’s name to any check, tax refund, insurance payment, or dividend.
Finally, in terms of assets, divorcing spouses must cooperate to maintain existing health, property, and life insurance until the court issues further orders.
The Injunction Also Covers the Children
In addition to the finances, the automatic temporary injunction seeks to protect the children of the marriage. It seeks to protect the peace of their home life as much as possible. Parents may not remove their children from school or daycare or hide their children from the other spouse. They may not take the children from the court’s jurisdiction without consent until the court can make further orders regarding custody and support.
The Production of Certain Documents is Mandatory
The injunction also mandates that spouses are required to produce certain documents and exchange them within 30 days. These documents include:
- The last two years of federal and state tax returns along with all supporting documentation,
- The last two months of pay stubs,
- All bank statements for the prior six months,
- Information and documents about the cost and nature of health insurance coverage for the parties and children.
- Documentation regarding the location and cost of daycare expenses, and
- Documentation regarding all debts in the name of either party, individually or jointly, including the balance due and payment terms.
There are specific rules regarding document production that must be adhered to. For example, if you do not have the requested document, it is not enough to just say that you do not have it. You must state, under penalty of perjury, the reasons why the document is not available, and what efforts have been made to obtain the document. If the document becomes available later, the spouses are under a continuing duty to disclose that fact.
If you have questions or concerns about the automatic temporary injunction, you should bring them to an experienced Stillwater divorce attorney as soon as possible.
Free Consultation with Stillwater Divorce Attorney
Divorce is often complicated. It is a time of lots of questions. Get the answers you need. A Stillwater divorce attorney who can assess your legal matters is just a phone call away. Let us see what we can do to help you through this process. Your first phone consultation is always free at Wirth Law Office in Stillwater: (405) 673-1600.
To reach someone by written correspondence please submit an inquiry through the “Ask an Attorney” feature above.