What Is a Permanent Injuction in a Divorce?
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
Injunctions often serve an important role during and after the divorce process, particularly in cases of domestic violence. Generally, an injunction prohibits an individual from taking certain actions and allows the other spouse to ask the court to impose penalties, such as jail time, if the injunction is not followed. The laws and the terms used will vary by state and the likelihood of getting an injunction is highly dependent on the particular facts of your case, as well as state law.
Temporary and Preliminary Injunctions
Temporary and preliminary injunctions are commonly awarded while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. Often a spouse will obtain a temporary injunction to prevent either spouse from moving or destroying marital property, taking on debt or harassing the other spouse or child. Generally, a court will grant a temporary order if the spouse can show that, without an injunction, the spouse may cause immediate and actual damage that cannot later be fixed by the spouse. For example, a court may prevent harm to the children or to a unique family asset. The initial temporary order will typically last for a short duration, usually a few days or weeks, after which the court will hold a hearing to decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction. In most cases, preliminary or temporary injunctions last only while the divorce process is ongoing and automatically expire once the divorce is finalized.
Some states refer to restraining orders as permanent injunctions or protective orders, which prevent an individual from committing domestic violence against his spouse or children. A restraining order may also prevent him from contacting his spouse or children, or from visiting the spouse's home or workplace. If the court determines that one spouse should not have visitation with the children, a restraining order may also prevent the spouse from having any contact with their school, daycare or doctor. A restraining order may be permanent or temporary.
Other Types of Permanent Injunctions
The court may also award permanent injunctions for issues surrounding custody and property. A permanent injunction may prevent a parent from interfering with the custody schedule or engaging in certain activities while the parent has custody of the child. For example, some states may allow a permanent injunction that prohibits a parent from having an overnight guest of the opposite sex while taking care of the child. Additionally, a permanent injunction may prevent an ex-spouse from interfering or destroying property that was awarded to the other spouse, or interfering with living conditions by shutting off utilities or keeping mail from the other spouse.
If one spouse does not follow the injunction, the other spouse may ask the court to enforce the order. Generally, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the spouse violated the order and may find the violating spouse in contempt of court. Depending on how severely the order was violated, the court has discretion to order a fine or even jail time.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."