Divorcing Spouses: What You Need to Know About ATROs

When we mention the term “Automatic Temporary Restraining Order” (or ATRO for short), a lot of people assume we’re talking about a restraining order in a domestic violence case where a divorce client needs protection from a spouse who is physically abusive. While domestic violence restraining or protective orders are frequently involved in divorce cases, especially where child custody is an issue, ATROs are entirely separate.

ATROs have to do with a divorcing couple’s finances and they exist to prevent vindictive spouses from dissipating (squandering) the couple’s marital assets amid divorce proceedings. ATROs establish rules and guidelines regarding the couple’s bank accounts, life insurance policies, wills, and trusts, etc.

What is an ATRO?

In a New York divorce, an ATRO is a court order that prohibits both spouses from:

  • Hiding assets,
  • Destroying assets,
  • Selling or transferring property,
  • Taking a loan against property,
  • Changing a bank account,
  • Withdrawing a large sum of money from a bank account, and
  • Changing the beneficiary designations on a policy (life insurance, health insurance, retirement account).

Once a divorce action is filed, an ATRO prevents either spouse from taking any steps that would change the couple’s financial status. For example, suppose a wife filed for divorce and her husband emptied all the bank accounts, shut them down, and left her penniless. An ATRO would prevent this from happening.

Let’s say a husband files for divorce and suddenly, the $50,000 cash the husband had been saving in a credit union goes missing. An ATRO can prevent that from happening as well.

ATROs are especially helpful to our clients because they initiate a broad freeze on a couple’s assets, which could otherwise be in the full control of the other spouse. In addition to their preventative function, ATROs are extremely valuable to forensic accountants because they provide a snapshot of the couple’s finances.

Next: Could Your Spouse Be Holding Restricted Stock?

To learn more about ATROs in a New York divorce, contact the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC to meet with a Dutchess County divorce lawyer.

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