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Standing Order in Divorce

What is a standing order?

Standing Orders were implemented by a significant number of counties in Texas over 10 years ago to decrease the amount of Temporary Restraining Orders that were being filed in non-emergent cases. Most of the Standing Orders are common sense and attempt to maintain the status quo from immediately prior to filing of a law suit as it relates to various child and financial issues.A standing order is an automatic component of family law cases that is attached to the first filing of each party in the case (the petition and answer or counterpetition). If you are the petitioner, you are subject to and bound by the terms of the Standing Orders as soon as you file your petition. The Respondent is subject to the Standing Orders once they have been served.

Standing orders in each county are similar, but not necessarily the same as in other counties. The orders are created by the District Courts in each county and include each judge’s signature. They are designed to set generalized behavioral guidelines for the parties during the pendency of the case.

Actions and behaviors governed by standing orders generally include:

  • Prohibitions against making disparaging remarks about your ex-spouse or his/her family to any children or in front of any children you both share;
  • Provisions preventing either spouse from taking the children outside of the state with the intent to change the primary domicile of the children during the pendency of the divorce;
  • Opening mail (electronic or paper) addressed to the other person;
  • Prohibitions against accessing the other party’s texts, emails or social media accounts;
  • Directives for spending allowances during the lawsuit;
  • Provisions forbidding the discussion of litigation with the children involved;
  • Provisions forbidding the destruction of property;
  • Prohibitions against changing beneficiaries on any insurance products or retirement account; and
  • Many others.

These circumstances can be negotiated and changed by agreement between parties or through a court order.

Standing Order Differences in the Counties of Texas

Denton, Dallas, and Collin county all have standing orders. While the orders are generally similar, there are some minor differences between them.

Denton County Standing Order

Denton County Standing Orders are almost identical to Dallas County. Both orders begin with provisions forbidding the disruption of children during the pendency of the case and have subheadings that track from there in discussing all of the issues typically governed by standing orders (see list above). Denton County does seem to provide a more robust set of guidelines involving preservation of property and funds during a divorce case. The standing order provides an impressive discussion of electronic data and regulates parties’ ability to alter or delete it.

Dallas County Standing Order

Though Dallas County and Denton County Standing orders are similar both substantively and structurally, the Dallas County Standing Orders contain provisions for the protection of family pets or companion animals. So, if you have a furry friend and live in Dallas, you will have some additional protection from the date of filing or service depending on if you are the Petitioner or Respondent in the case.

Collin County Standing Order

Though the Collin County Standing order contains much the same information as Denton and Dallas County, it is structured a bit differently. Instead of beginning with provisions forbidding the disruption of children, Collin County Standing Orders first discuss inter-party communication. It then follows the same pattern as Dallas and Denton County standing order in the discussion of treatment of property, spending and borrowing, insurance, treatment of children, etc.  Unlike Denton and Dallas County, Collin County regulates interactions with children near the end of the order, however it contains much the same substantive information as other counties. Further, Collin County Standing orders make no provision for the protection of animals related to the case. The Collin County Standing Order has a provision for the mandatory exchange of information in any suit affecting parent-child relationships that is similar, but not as arduous as the Initial Disclosures that were recently implemented by the Texas Supreme Court..

How long does a standing order last?

Standing orders stay in effect for the entire pendency of the case unless there has been another order entered that supersedes the Standing Order.

What is an automatic standing order?

All standing orders are effectively “automatic” in that, if they exist in the county in which you are filing your lawsuit, they must be attached to the first filing of the case and the parties are subject to same upon filing or service. It is important to remember that not all counties have Standing Orders to provide some of these basic protections discussed above. In that case, a party may seek the same relief by filing for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and having a hearing within 14 days.

What are temporary orders?

Temporary orders deal with a lot of the same issues that are included in standing orders, in addition to many other issues but instead are decided later in the case. Temporary order hearings may include issues of child custody (conservatorship and possession and access) or domicile, property distribution, spending, etc. but decisions will be more individualized to the case. For example, parties may want the court to determine temporary conservatorship and the primary domicile of the child. In a Temporary Order hearing, a judge is going to decide the whats and the whos. For example, who is going to pay for the house and what mental health expert is going to prepare a child custody evaluation. Once temporary orders are in place, they govern the case in tandem with the more generalized standing orders until final orders have been entered.

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