What Does a “Temporary Order” Mean in Terms of My Divorce?

A divorce is a complex and emotionally challenging process involving the legal dissolution of a marriage. During the course of a divorce, you and your spouse must address numerous issues, ranging from property division and financial matters to child custody and support arrangements. In the state of Tennessee, the court system recognizes the need to establish something called temporary orders to provide structure and guidelines for these issues while the divorce is ongoing.

Understanding temporary orders

A temporary order, also known as a “pendente lite” order, is a legal directive issued by the court to establish temporary rules and arrangements that govern various aspects of a divorce case while it’s still pending. The term “pendente lite” is derived from Latin and translates to “pending the litigation.” Temporary orders serve the purpose of providing stability and order during an often lengthy and complex divorce process, ensuring that both parties and any children involved have their immediate needs met.

Temporary orders can address a wide range of issues, including child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), possession of property, payment of bills, and even matters related to legal representation. These orders are designed to address the immediate concerns that arise during the period between filing for divorce and the finalization of the divorce decree. They are intended to prevent one party from unilaterally making decisions that could disadvantage the other party or disrupt the well-being of any children involved.

In Tennessee, obtaining a divorce involves a series of steps that include filing a divorce complaint, serving the other party, engaging in discovery, and ultimately reaching a settlement or proceeding to trial. Throughout this process, temporary orders play a crucial role in ensuring that both parties are treated fairly and that the divorce proceedings proceed smoothly.

Temporary orders are typically requested by one or both parties through a formal request submitted to the court. This request outlines the specific issues that need to be addressed in the temporary order, like child custody, child support, and alimony. The court then holds a hearing to consider the request and determine whether the issuance of temporary orders is necessary and appropriate based on the facts of the case.

During the hearing, both parties may present evidence and arguments to support their positions on the issues in question. The judge will carefully evaluate the evidence, consider the best interests of any children involved, and make decisions that provide temporary solutions until the final divorce decree is issued. It’s important to note that the terms of temporary orders are subject to modification as circumstances change and as the divorce proceedings continue.

Scope of temporary orders

Temporary orders in a Tennessee divorce can address a variety of important issues:

Child custody and visitation

Temporary orders can establish temporary child custody arrangements that determine where the children will reside during the divorce process and how visitation with the non-custodial parent will be structured. The primary consideration is, as always, the best interests of the children, and the orders aim to provide stability and routine during this transitional period.

Child support

Temporary orders can set the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other to ensure that the financial needs of the children are met. This calculation is typically based on Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines, which take into account factors such as the income of both parents and the number of children.


Temporary orders may address temporary alimony payments, if applicable. Alimony provides financial support to a lower-earning spouse during the divorce proceedings. The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial resources of each party, and the standard of living during the marriage when determining temporary alimony.

Property possession

Temporary orders can specify which spouse will have temporary possession of marital property, such as the family home, vehicles, and personal belongings. These orders aim to ensure that both parties have access to essential items while the divorce is ongoing.

Payment of bills and expenses

Temporary orders may assign responsibility for paying bills and expenses during the divorce proceedings. This can include mortgage payments, utilities, insurance premiums, and other ongoing financial obligations.

Legal representation

Temporary orders can address legal representation for both parties. If one spouse is unable to afford an attorney, the court can establish provisions to ensure that both parties have access to legal counsel during the divorce process.

Restraining orders and protective orders

In cases involving concerns about the safety or the well-being of either spouse or the children, temporary restraining orders or protective orders can be issued to establish boundaries and ensure a secure environment.

The benefits of temporary orders

Temporary orders offer several benefits within the context of a Tennessee divorce:

  • Stability and structure. Divorce proceedings can be emotionally difficult, and temporary orders provide much-needed stability and structure for the family during this uncertain time. By establishing guidelines for important matters, temporary orders can help you and your spouse navigate the divorce process with a sense of predictability.
  • Child-centric approach. Temporary orders prioritize the well-being of any children involved in the divorce. By addressing child custody, visitation, and child support, these orders aim to create an environment that supports the emotional and physical needs of the children.
  • Fairness and equity. Temporary orders help ensure that both parties are treated fairly and equitably during the divorce process. They prevent one party from taking unilateral actions that could disadvantage the other party or create an imbalance of power.
  • Time savings. By addressing immediate concerns through temporary orders, the divorce proceedings can continue to move forward without unnecessary delays. This can lead to a more efficient resolution of your case.
  • Conflict reduction. Temporary orders can help reduce conflict between parties by providing clear guidelines and expectations. This can contribute to a more amicable divorce process and facilitate smoother communication between you and your spouse.

The limitations of temporary orders

While temporary orders can offer valuable benefits, it’s also important to recognize their limitations:

  • Subject to change. Temporary orders are just that – temporary. They remain in effect only until the final divorce decree is issued. As a result, the terms established in temporary orders could be subject to change or modification based on new developments or negotiations.
  • Complex legal proceedings. Navigating the process of obtaining temporary orders requires a solid understanding of Tennessee’s divorce laws and procedures. The Knoxville family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter ensure that your rights and interests are adequately protected throughout the proceedings.
  • Potential for disagreement. Even though temporary orders are designed to address immediate concerns, there is still the potential for disagreement between the parties. Conflicts may arise over issues such as child custody arrangements, spousal support, or property possession.
  • Emotional impact. While temporary orders aim to provide stability, divorce is still inherently emotional and can be challenging for both you and your spouse. Emotions may run high, particularly when addressing matters related to children and finances.

If you are considering a temporary order for any reason, get in touch with the Knoxville family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter today. We are well-versed in these types of issues and are happy to help. Call our office or submit our contact form so we can get started on your case without delay.