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Standing Orders

Court Basics

Some Texas counties have "standing orders," which are court orders that automatically take effect when a case is filed.

Here, learn about standing orders in Texas family law cases. They are rules used by judges in some counties that can require or prohibit actions until a decision is made in the case. Standing orders pertain to children, behavior, and property, and are in place until the case is over or the court changes the order. They differ from temporary restraining orders, which are requested by a party and only last for a short time.

What are standing orders?

In family law cases, standing orders are a set of rules established by the judges (either county or district court) of a specific county. They are a form of temporary restraining orders, which are discussed in more detail below. They can exist in any family law case and are most commonly seen in divorces and any case that may involve a child (also referred to as Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship).

What are standing orders for?

The purpose of standing orders is to either prohibit a party from doing a certain thing, or require a party to do a certain thing in order to maintain the status quo until a judge can hear the issues and make a ruling. Standing orders generally cover three areas: children, the parties' behavior, and property, which includes finances, business records, insurance, as well as real and personal property such as houses and cars. For an example of a standing order, see Bexar County’s standing orders.

Does every county use standing orders?

No. But many counties both large and small do have them. Some large counties, like Tarrant and Harris, do not.

Some populous Texas counties that have standing orders include:

How do I know if my county has a standing order requirement?

The best way to find out is to visit the website for the county clerk or district clerk where you will file your lawsuit, and see if that county has a standing order. You can also call the clerk and ask them if their county has standing orders. 

As of January 1, 2023, Texas courts must publish their local rules, forms, and standing orders to the Office of Court Administration’s Public Information System.  

What do I have to do if my county has a standing order?

If your county requires a standing order, find the order (usually on the clerk’s website), print it out, and attach it to your pleading (usually called a petition) when you file the suit. Read the standing orders carefully. If you do not understand the standing orders, talk to a lawyer. Use the Legal Help Directory to find a lawyer.

When do standing orders take effect?

Standing orders take effect the moment the pleading (petition) starting the lawsuit is filed. For example, if you are filing for divorce in Bexar County (a county that requires a standing order), you would download the standing order from the Bexar County District Clerk’s website and attach it to the end of your original divorce petition. The moment you file the petition, the standing order is in effect.

How long do standing orders last?

A standing order is effective until the court enters an order that either changes the standing order or eliminates it. And once your case is final, the standing order will no longer be in effect.

How are standing orders different from temporary restraining orders (“TROs”)?

Standing orders are a type of temporary restraining order (TRO). Standing orders and TROs often cover the same things. But standing orders are not requested by a party. They are imposed on all parties by the judges without anyone requesting it. In contrast, a party must request a TRO.

Unlike a standing order, a TRO by law can only last up to 14 days, with one extension of time allowed under certain circumstances. Before the 14-day period expires, all parties must appear before the court and have a hearing to determine whether the TRO will become a temporary order. If it becomes a temporary order, it can remain in effect until the court terminates it, modifies it, or finalizes the case.

Temporary restraining orders can do two things that standing orders cannot. TROs can exclude a party from the marital residence upon a showing of special circumstances or deny a party access to the children. Standing orders typically cannot and do not exclude a party from the residence or deny access to the children. 

What happens if a party violates a standing order?

A standing order is a court order. You could be held in contempt of court if you violate a court order. A party can file a motion to enforce a standing order if the other party violates it. Talk to a lawyer about the consequences of violating a standing order.

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