Temporary orders are tests. You may not think as a temporary order as a test, but they are. Depending on what the judge directs, a temporary order may be a way for the Court to test one or both of the parties to see how they will behave in a given situation, or how they follow directions.

A temporary or “interim” order, is an order that is made while the litigation is pending but before the case is concluded. Such an order continues until another order of the court, most often is a final order, which is issued after a settlement or a hearing. Temporary orders in matrimonial or Family Court cases may address child and/or spousal support, child custody and visitation, exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence as well as the use of marital property. Temporary orders also may include directing parties to undergo drug testing, mental health evaluations or to comply with other preventative services through the Department of Social Services or another third party agency.

A party’s willingness to comply with the directives of the Court gives a judge a means to measure the party’s level of cooperation, maturity and credibility. In many cases it is a way to test their parenting skills. With temporary custody orders, the court may be able to gauge what sort of schedule is best for the child or children as well as tests the parties’ willingness to work with each other and follow directions.

As I like to call it, this is “giving a party enough rope to hang themselves”. I say this because when a party ignores or disobeys a temporary order, most judges will take a very dim view of this conduct and a dimmer view of the party. A judge may interpret a party’s disobedience of the temporary order as a demonstration that the party is willing to put their interests ahead of all others. The fact that they would not listen to the judge calls into question their ability to cooperate with the other party.

Violating a temporary order usually results in big or bigger troubles for the party who has disobeyed the order. Beyond being held in contempt of court, a party may see their failure to abide by a temporary order result in their losing in the ultimate determination, be it custody of their children, distribution of property, or granting another permanent order.

I have seen in many cases that a party’s failure to comply with the temporary order of custody or visitation will have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. For example in one case a father requested extended visitation with his children. He was awarded such in a temporary order. But then he failed to exercise that visitation. His failure to exercise scheduled visitation reflected poorly on him. This helped convince the judge that he should not have as much visitation as he requested. This father failed the temporary order test.

On the flip side, if a party subject to a temporary order and they diligently follow it, it will reflect well on them.

For the custodial parents, the temporary order also provides an opportunity by which they can show that they can cooperate and that as the custodial parent, they will follow the order of the court, respect the other party’ role as a parent, and, most of all, do what they need to do to advance the best interest of their children. A custodial parent that fails to provide visitation, as called for in a temporary order, may show the court that they are not fit to be the custodial parent. If you are subject to a temporary order, look at it as a test; a test that you must not fail.