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Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin > Step 3: Obtaining Temporary Orders

What is a Temporary Order Hearing in a Divorce Case?

Questions answered in this article:
What are temporary orders in a divorce?  | Who needs a temporary order hearing? | How long do temporary orders remain in effect? | What gets decided at a temporary order hearing? | What happens if someone fails to comply with temporary orders issued in family court? | Do temporary orders become permanent?
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Temporary Order Hearing for Divorce in Wisconsin | How to Request a Temporary Order Hearing | What to Expect During the Temporary Order Hearing

What is a Temporary Order?

Once the divorce papers have been filed, the next step in the divorce process is to obtain temporary orders. Temporary orders are common in Wisconsin contested divorce cases but can be used in other types of divorce, as well.

What are temporary orders in a divorce?

A temporary order is obtained by filing a motion before the court. Our divorce lawyers can generally draft motions for temporary orders at the same time as the initial divorce papers are drafted or anytime thereafter. Our attorneys strive to have the necessary motions drafted within twenty-four hours of a client’s request.

Who needs a temporary order hearing?

Sometimes, shortly after a divorce is filed, the parties need help deciding how to manage their affairs while the divorce is pending. You will need a Temporary Order Hearing if you and your spouse cannot agree on the following issues:

  • Who will continue to live in the house or pay the mortgage?
  • Who will be responsible for the car payments?
  • Who can use the credit cards?
  • When will the children be with each parent?

Temporary Order Hearing for Divorce in Wisconsin

When parties to a divorce cannot reach an agreement on these matters, they can ask the court for a “Temporary Order Hearing.” This is a hearing that will be held before a county court commissioner. A commissioner is akin to an assistant judge—they hear and decide initial matters that are time sensitive or of immediate importance and that do not generally involve complicated legal proceedings.

How to Request a Temporary Order Hearing

If you and your spouse need help establishing your respective rights and responsibilities during the pendency of the divorce, your lawyer will file an “Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders” and an Affidavit—signed by you—that simply alleges you have been unable to reach any agreements regarding the temporary use of property, temporary division of income, and temporary placement of your children (or such other issues as may need to be decided).
Once filed, the family court commissioner’s clerk will set the matter for a hearing. Your attorney will then serve the Affidavit and Order to Show Cause on your spouse or his or her attorney. Depending on the county in which you live, the hearing could be held as soon as a couple of weeks from the time you file the Order to Show Cause, to as many as two or three months after you file it.

What to Expect During the Temporary Order Hearing

At the Temporary Order Hearing, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will provide the court commissioner with financial declarations setting forth details regarding all of your assets, debts, monthly expenses, and income. They will also present facts and make arguments to the commissioner in favor of orders that are beneficial to each of you.

The commissioner may ask questions of you directly for clarification or to gather additional information. Temporary Order Hearings are often informal—the statutory rules regarding the submission of evidence are not often followed or enforced and it may feel more like a “conversation” with the commissioner as opposed to a “hearing” with the taking of testimony and evidence.

How long do temporary orders remain in effect?

The commissioner will then make orders to be followed on a temporary basis, that is—only while the divorce is pending. These orders are subject to change during the pendency of the divorce if circumstances change and they will very often change at the time the divorce is granted and permanent orders are established.

What gets decided at a temporary order hearing?

Things the commissioner will decide on a temporary basis can include:

  1. 1. Child Custody and Placement
  2. 2. Child Support
  3. 3. Spousal Support
  4. 4. Payment of Debts
  5. 5. Use of Property

The commissioner will also typically make the following orders in every case (where relevant):

  1. 1. Orders prohibiting the removal of children from the court’s jurisdiction or prohibiting interference with the other party’s custody and placement rights
  2. 2. Orders prohibiting either party from disposing of assets within the court’s jurisdiction
  3. 3. Orders requiring either or both parties to maintain the children or the other party on his or her health insurance policy
  4. 4. Orders prohibiting either party from harassing or intimidating the other or coming upon the premises of the other party without permission

What happens if someone fails to comply with temporary orders issued in family court?

Failure to abide by the court’s temporary orders can result in sanctions such as fines or even imprisonment.

However, if you do not like the court commissioner’s temporary orders, you can ask for a “de novo review.” This is a “do over” in front of the judge assigned to your case. However, the commissioner’s orders will remain in effect unless or until the judge modifies them.

Do temporary orders become permanent?

Temporary Orders are the source of many requests for “de novo review” in family court, however, by the time the judge reviews the court commissioner’s orders, often enough time has passed that the circumstances have changed, or the temporary orders have been in effect for so long the judge will not see the value in modifying them so close to the end of the divorce proceedings.

Because of this, temporary orders sometimes have a nasty habit of becoming permanent orders. If the temporary orders have been in effect for many months and the parties still cannot agree on how to finalize the issues in their divorce, the judge may default to the temporary orders that have been in effect and continue them as permanent orders in the Judgment of Divorce.

Therefore, it is important to get your temporary orders right the first time. To maximize your likelihood of success in this regard, you need an experienced attorney who understands the unique idiosyncrasies and preferences of the court commissioners in your county.

Talk to a Wisconsin Divorce Attorney

Your attorney will help you assess whether temporary orders are necessary during your initial conversations.

Once the temporary orders have been established, the next step in the divorce process is a financial discovery.

If you have questions about whether you should request a Temporary Order Hearing, or if you need to modify your existing temporary orders, please call us for a free consultation.

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