Preliminary Injunction Law & Legal Definition


A preliminary injunction is a court order made in the early stages of a lawsuit or petition which prohibits the parties from doing an act in order to preserve the status quo until a pending ruling or outcome. In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must demonstrate both (1) that it will suffer irreparable harm if the motion is not granted and (2) either (a) a likelihood that it will succeed on the merits of the action or (b) a sufficiently serious question going to the merits at the litigation and the balance of hardships tipping decidedly in plaintiff's favor.

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to keep the parties, while the suit is pending, as much as possible in the respective positions they occupied when the suit began and to preserve the court's ability to render a meaningful decision after a trial on the merits. The granting of a preliminary injunction is within the equitable discretion of the trial judge. A preliminary injunction should not be issued when there is an adequate remedy at law. Therefore, some courts will order the legal remedy of prejudgment attachment of assets rather than the equitable remedy of a preliminary injunction. Courts typically view equitable remedies as more intrusive than legal remedies both because equitable remedies may order the defendant to engage in affirmative conduct, and because they are enforceable by contempt proceedings, which threaten imprisonment.

A court is more likely to grant a preliminary injunction if a public interest can be shown. For example, in trademark infringement actions in which the health or safety of the consumer is at issue, there is a significant public interest and reason for the court to support the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

In a divorce case, a preliminary injunction prevents each spouse from doing certain things that might harm the person, property or legal rights of the other spouse. The purpose of the preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo until written agreement is reached by the parties or the court has had the opportunity to make fair decisions about these matters.

The preliminary injunction is an official court order that is effective until the divorce case has ended. A preliminary injunction may order, among other things, the following:

  1. The spouses must not to sell, give away, transfer, borrow against or hide any community property, unless needed for the necessities of life or done in the usual course of a business.
  2. There is to be no family violence.
  3. Neither spouse may any children from the state without the written agreement of both spouses or the court’s permission.
  4. All types of insurance coverage for the spouses and any children must remain effective and that no one may be removed.

A spouse who disobeys the preliminary injunction may be arrested and prosecuted for the crime of interfering with judicial proceedings; that spouse may also be held in contempt of court (punished by fine or jail for violation of a court order).