Divorce Law Monitor

Temporary Orders (Allowances) Explained

June 18, 2020


Temporary Orders, or Temporary Allowances as they are called in Rhode Island, are interim orders that are made in a case before a final hearing (trial) in order to address pressing issues. Temporary Orders can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court after one or both parties file a Motion. Some of the issues that are addressed via Temporary Orders in divorce cases include child support, alimony, parenting plans, health insurance, and the payment of expenses. Temporary Orders last until changed by a final decision or a further Temporary Order of the Court.

It is important to understand, especially as it relates to parenting plans, that Temporary Orders have a way of becoming permanent orders. What this means is that Temporary Orders that are in effect for a long period of time may ultimately be the final orders agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court. As such, if you negotiate and agree on Temporary Orders, it is important to consider how those orders will work for the long haul, as they may be difficult to change. In light of the current backlog in the Courts, especially because of COVID-19, it is taking over a year to get to a final hearing (trial) in most cases, meaning Temporary Orders will likely be in effect for quite a while.

Temporary Orders can be changed during the pendency of a case, but only upon a showing of a very important and significant change in circumstances.  While permitted, in practice, changing a Temporary Order is very difficult.  Some judges are unwilling to change Temporary Orders during the pendency of a case absent an emergency.

Generally speaking, absent agreement of the parties, an asset division in a divorce case will not be decided via a Temporary Order. For illustrative purposes, let’s say one party wants to sell the marital home and one party does not. Presuming there are no pressing reasons to sell the marital home, sale of the marital home will not be decided until a final divorce hearing (trial), i.e. not via a Temporary Order. This ensures that both parties are permitted to present his or her position via a hearing where evidence is presented, witnesses are examined and cross-examined, and all rights are properly preserved.

I’m sure you are thinking, “well isn’t it just as important (if not more important) to protect each party’s rights relative to the children and the payment of support, but those issues can be decided via a Temporary Order?” Of course, the answer is yes, but generally speaking, it is not possible to operate without a parenting plan or without support from the time of the filing of divorce to final hearing, which, as mentioned above, could be many, many months, or years. The immediacy of the issue dictates whether it can be resolved via a Temporary Order of the Court. Some judges do hold evidentiary hearings (mini-trials) to decide Temporary Orders, but given the lack of judicial resources, that is rare. Most Temporary Orders are decided by the Court after hearing oral arguments from counsel, or the parties directly if they are not represented by counsel.

As seeking and obtaining Temporary Orders can significantly alter the course of any case, seeking out qualified counsel to assist is imperative.

Until next time, take care and be well.

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