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The Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order

What is the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order?

The Probate and Family Courts have a set of rules called the Supplemental Rules of the Probate and Family Court.  These are a set of written and enforceable rules that apply to cases pending in the Probate and Family Court.  Among these rules is Rule 411, which creates a set of financial restrictions to prevent people from hiding money or punishing their soon-to-be ex-spouse by wasting assets.

When does it apply?

If you are the Plaintiff (the person filing the initial case), the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order applies as soon as the case has been filed, whether directly by you or by an attorney on your behalf.

If you are the Defendant (the person who the initial case has been filed against), the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order applies as soon as you have been served with the case.

Whether you are the Plaintiff or the Defendant, the Rule continues to apply until the case is resolved.

What does it restrain me from doing?

Once the Automatic Restraining Order applies, you are barred from selling, hiding, giving away or throwing away anything you own.  You are also barred from transferring money or taking on new debt.  The only exceptions are your usual expenses and unusual expenses related to paying for your attorney’s fees or legal costs.  Any other non-routine financial activity must be agreed upon between both parties or allowed by a Court Order.

The order also bars people from making changes to who is covered by health, dental, auto, disability, and liability insurance, who is a beneficiary for things like life insurance policies and retirement/pension plans or other accounts.

Essentially, it makes sure that no one’s using the finances to punish the other person or to hide/waste assets so they can’t be divided in the divorce.

If you are considering a certain transaction and aren’t sure whether it is barred by the Automatic Restraining Order, ask your attorney first

So, it freezes our accounts?

No.  The Order applies to the parties to the case, not against third parties like banks.  You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are required to refrain from violating the order.  Your accounts all still work, as you both still need them to cover your day-to-day expenses.

What happens if someone violates the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order?

A person who violates the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order may be subject to sanctions.  This could include being found in Contempt for violating the order and being ordered to restore things to the way they were before your violation and/or pay the attorney’s fees the other party incurred in enforcing the order.

The Court might also order that the costs of your violation be attributed to you when final decisions are made—essentially, that we are to pretend you still have the money or have not incurred the debt that was a violation.  By way of example, if you spent $30,000.00 on a new car after being served with a divorce and the car quickly loses value (as cars do), the Court can still pretend you have the $30,000.00 in cash when deciding how to divide things up at the end of the case.

Lastly, Judges are allowed to consider your choices and behaviors when making decisions.  Those decisions might be who they believe when the only evidence is your word versus the word of another person or how they write out a specific order or obligation.  In family law cases, one of the most important factors is maintaining credibility in front of the judge.  Violating court orders is the fastest route to losing credibility in front of a judge.

What if I want or need to do something that would violation the Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order?

Call or email us so we can discuss the specific transaction and determine what your next steps should be.  Do not undertake a transaction that is outside of your usual financial habits without speaking to us first.