Take this opportunity to identify every thing that worries you. List and then discuss your concerns with your attorney. Together you’ll prepare and submit a proposed agreement to resolve them to your spouse’s attorney. For example, you might agree that neither you nor your spouse will:
1. charge against the credit of the other;
2. make any extraordinary expenditure without giving written notice in advance to the other;
3. sell, give away, transfer, exchange or borrow money against any property; and
4. cash, borrow against, transfer, cancel, dispose of, change any beneficiary, fail to pay any premium or make any change in any policy of insurance.
Put your proposal in the form of a stipulation and order so it can be submitted to the court after all parties and attorneys have signed it. If your spouse is not willing to sign something like this, you should start getting worried and move quickly to get a court order on your own. Note that some of you may already have the gist of fundamental orders 3 and 4, standard restraining orders on the California summons, among many states, in effect.
Temporary orders such as these are common. Each court system seems to have pre-approved standard orders it will grant if requested, without requiring anything extraordinary to be proven. These temporary orders stay in effect, by their own terms, until modified by agreement or by the judgment of the court. Note that the orders suggested above are a bare minimum. Your goal is to get an order dealing with each issue that is important to you, pending the final outcome of your case.
This is no time to be shy about discussing your objectives as well as your concerns with your attorney. Irv was able to negotiate a joint custody arrangement with his wife to achieve his most important goal. He did this at the outset; today, he still has joint custody. He would have had little chance for joint custody if Linda had the usual temporary order for children of these ages, two and four, giving custody to her because she stayed at home while Irv had to go off to work.
Irv’s commitment to the children was strong; he juggled his work schedule, and arranged long weekends to be with them. It worked because Linda didn’t lose the usual prime weekend time; she didn’t have to work and the children weren’t in school yet. It also worked because Linda wasn’t threatened with a demand to forget child support because Irv had the children half the time.
Attempt to negotiate appropriate orders for your case. The following suggestions can start you thinking; when your spouse agrees, submit them to the court for an enforceable order that:
5. the minor children shall not be removed from the counties of (specified by name) without first obtaining written consent from the other parent, or a court order;
6. no election (choice or change) shall be made under any retirement or pension plan without first getting written consent from the other spouse;
7. the named spouse shall pay a stated amount of spousal support on a specific day of each month (now deductible because of the court’s order);
8. the named spouse shall pay a stated amount of child support on a specific day each month (this usually includes an agreement for the sharing of child care and extraordinary health care);
9. custody of and visitation with the minor children shall follow a clear, simple plan that you lay out in the stipulation;
10. all payments made by the designated spouse on the specified accounts shall be reimbursed by the community at the time of the property division;
11. each spouse shall be responsible for certain specified bills;
12. one named spouse shall have the exclusive right to use and occupy the family residence;
13. specified accounts shall be blocked against withdrawal by one spouse alone (or the sums on deposit shall only be used for specified purposes);
14. all joint credit cards will be canceled, after paying the joint debt and giving a non-employed spouse a chance to keep the old account as an individual; and
15. each spouse shall have the exclusive use of an automobile as specified.
This order would take care of most cases. However, it’s only a suggestion to get you started. Your lawyer will recommend the orders needed to meet your specific concerns. You may have already dealt with two of the topics. Order No. 5 is similar to one of the standard restraining orders on California summonses. Order No. 6 supplements the notice sent to the plan administrator.
It’s not realistic to expect to get everything you want, at least in legal negotiations. Be ready to give on some issues and to trade on others. Hearings for temporary orders are costly and emotional. If you find that you can get most of what you want by agreement, let a few minor points slide. One or two of your temporary orders for the next few months are usually not worth the considerable expense of a court hearing.
Obviously, you must go to court if you can’t get an adequate agreement, or you need support and your spouse refuses to pay a reasonable amount. Review the temporary support schedules to find out which one of you is out of line with reality. If it’s in the gray area, you and your attorney will have to weigh the risks, benefits and costs.