When a petition for divorce is filed in any Georgia county, the court will issue a standing order. A standing order sets forth guidelines governing the behavior of the parties until the final divorce decree is issued. Every Georgia county has their own version of the standing order but generally, a standing order will prevent both parties from engaging in the following actions:
- transferring assets
- removing children from the jurisdiction
- stalking or harassing the other spouse
- employing a third party to do any of the above
- terminating or modifying the family’s insurance coverage
- When does the standing order go into effect?
The plaintiff is the spouse who files the divorce petition. The standing order will go into effect for the plaintiff upon filing because the plaintiff filed and is promptly given a copy of the order. Importantly, the standing order does not go into effect for the defendant until the defendant is served with both the petition and the order. Upon service, the defendant is legally prevented in engaging in the aforementioned activities.
What if I suspect my spouse is hiding assets?
Hiding or transferring assets is precluded by the standing order but intentional hiding of assets is a much more serious offense. Transferring of assets is not allowed by either the standing order issued by the county superior court or by state law at O.C.G.A. § 19-5-7. Furthermore, an illegal transfer of assets could be construed by the court as an attempt to hide assets, which carries a much greater penalty. In these cases, the party in contempt may be charged with making a fraudulent conveyance. Additionally, it is not unusual for the court to award the innocent spouse the full value of those assets.
What should I do if I am afraid my spouse will take retaliatory action?
If an individual is already anticipating a risk that the other spouse will take actions that may be harmful, there are additional legal protections that can be put in place. A request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) can be filed with the divorce petition to prevent the other party from taking threatening or harassing actions. In the event that there is an established history of family violence, a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) can be filed. There are different types of TPOs which make the process somewhat more complicated than a TRO filing. Both of these processes should be handled by an attorney to be certain the at-risk spouse is adequately protected.
What happens if the standing order is violated by either party?
Violating the standing order will likely result in legal action. The court can hold either party in contempt of court for a violation. Contempt is punishable by monetary fines or imprisonment. Additionally, contempt charges may become factors considered by the court when awarding support or property in the divorce. If you are considering taking any action related to the standing order, it is very important to first consult with your attorney to ensure you will not violate the standing order.
What are the differences in the standing orders from county to county?
The state law authorizing standing orders is codified at O.C.G.A. § 19-1-1. However, the requirements for filing vary slightly from county to county. For example, Fulton county requires the parties to attend a 30-day status conference. An example of the Fulton County Standing Order can be viewed on the county’s website. DeKalb county requires the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit and the child support worksheet to be completed and filed with the petition. Cherokee county has different standing order for couples with and without children. Examples of both are available on the Cherokee County website. Cobb County requires the parties to attend a seminar for divorcing parents. Forsyth County closely follows the Georgia statute. Because each county has its own requirements, it is important to have an attorney who is experienced in filing divorces in the county in which you live.
If you suspect that your spouse may attempt to hide assets, remove the children, or take any other vindictive action upon discovering that you are seeking a divorce, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney prior to telling your spouse that you intend to file for divorce. The standing order will provide you with legal protection against your spouse but your attorney will determine whether additional protections need to be in place. When you file the petition can be a strategic action that is best discussed with your attorney to ensure the safest and least stressful course of action is chosen.
If you are facing divorce and have questions about the Standing Order for your county, call us at 770-408-0477 to discuss your case with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.