Understanding Protection Orders and Pendente Lite Orders

I had a protection order hearing today. My client prevailed and the order was dissolved as we sat there. We listened to testimony about the parties arguing, yelling, accusations, and finally about discipline of the children. There were also tape recordings of the same. Loud and angry voices but a protection order is not a remedy for people who can’t get along. It’s meant to protect parties from physical threats and threats of violence. The threat also must be an imminent threat. It can’t have happened many months or years before you go to file the motion.   The protection from abuse statute is a narrowly defined remedy and it is not meant to supersede a divorce.

I have seen parties try to use the protection order to maintain exclusive possession of the parties home and to obtain custody of children. The proper way to obtain house and custody is to file for divorce and ask the court to set a pendente lite hearing to award you the same. The good news is, if the fighting is the kind I heard today on the audio, it’s likely the court will agree that the parties shouldn’t live together for the sake of the kids. The bad news is, if you have both participated in the fighting it’s not going to be very favorable to you. You may be thinking…

What do I do if I must live in the house while the divorce is pending?

  1. Keep your cool!  If you can’t then don’t go to another room so you don’t allow yourself to get into a verbal exchange that could be damaging to your case.
  2. Record conversations. Conversations are admissible as long as one party knows they are being recorded.   See above!  Everything you say could come out in court.  Is what you are saying something you want to hear again in the courtroom in front of the Judge?
  3. Be civil to the opposing party. I know it’s hard.  But if you want to vent and rage, do it to your friends or family.  Make sure it’s out of the hearing of your children.
  4. Seek professional help if you are struggling to contain your anger or sadness. You don’t have to suffer through it alone. A therapist once gave me the advice to send a letter to the person who has hurt you.  You don’t have to send it but getting it out can be therapeutic.   The letter can also be used as evidence so same caveat as above.  Do you want the contents of the letter to come out in the courtroom?
  5. Find a support system to help you navigate this difficult time. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your attorney, I would urge you to find counsel who will listen to you.  Experienced counsel will be able to give you advice on how best to handle a volatile situation and can guide you on when it’s right to seek the court’s intervention.
  6. Keep your children out of it. Don’t send messages to your spouse through the children.  Don’t talk about the other parent negatively.  Don’t talk about divorce in front of the kids.   Do not cause your children to feel as if they must choose between the two of you.  Don’t try to take up all the kids’ time to prevent them from spending time with the kids. Your attorney can help you if the two of you are arguing a lot about the children and access.
  7. Read the standing order of Madison County and make sure you are abiding by the terms.
  8. Don’t try to seek revenge by financially impacting your spouse negatively.  Don’t use credit cards you know you are authorized to use.  Don’t overspend.  Don’t stop assisting with the payment of bills.
  9. Take a deep breath, or a lot of them, it’s going to be over soon.

The process can be draining and distressing to everyone who is involved in the matter, but having a good strategy can be the key to managing both your life and your case.  If you need help with this difficult situation, make sure you have experienced legal counsel who can guide you through it.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.