Upon the filing a Complaint for Divorce, the spouse initiating the divorce action, the plaintiff, becomes subject to the Automatic Restraining Order under Massachusetts Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 411. The spouse, who must respond to the plaintiff’s action, or, in other words, provide an Answer to the Complaint, is the defendant; and he or she becomes subject Rule 411 upon service of process, i.e. when a Constable or Sheriff serves the defendant with the Summons and Complaint.
Rule 411 prohibits each party from dissipating assets, burdening the other party with debt, removing the other party as a beneficiary under any insurance, pension or retirement plans, and allowing medical, dental, life, automobile and disability insurance coverage for the other party or the minor children to lapse. The purpose behind Rule 411 is to maintain the status quo until a divorce judgment is entered. Since there are a number of exceptions to the automatic prohibitions under Rule 411, before taking any action that could be considered a violation of Rule 411, you should consult with your attorney. Being held in contempt of court for violating Rule 411 can have a significant adverse impact on your case.