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Filing an ATRO may simplify the divorce process

Many do not know what an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order is. It sounds like it could be an order issued by a judge so that an abusive partner cannot interact with the person who filed it, but it is not. It is a quintessential part of family law that allows spouses that are divorcing to meet on a level playing field.

ATROs are important documents that are considered legal necessities by some. By including one in a divorce case, spouses can establish specific ground rules that directly affect items and documents belonging to the couple, including assets, beneficiary designations, and insurance policies.

The goal of an ATRO is to keep the financial status of both spouses the same until a divorce settlement is finalized. Once an ATRO is filed along with any divorce action, couples in New Jersey and many other states are not allowed to sell, transfer or borrow against property. They also are not allowed to change bank accounts, modify beneficiaries on policies or borrow or sell insurance held for the other spouse. In addition, they cannot hide or destroy any assets.

This is so an accurate picture of the finances for both spouses can be taken. This is important to the division of property, especially in cases where one spouse is wealthier than the other or brings in 100 percent of the income. Alimony decisions use the finances of both spouses to determine how much support will be paid, if any at all.

Many experts in family law value ATROs because they apply a broad freeze to the assets of the involved parties. This temporary freeze makes the divorce process much smoother.

In many cases, ATROs are separate from the Summons of a Petition for Dissolution document. Be sure to notify any financial institutions of the divorce action and the ATRO, if filed, so that they can observe and understand what is happening.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: Here's What You Need to Know About ATROs," Jeff Landers, July 11, 2012

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