Heading into a divorce can be stressful. Among the uncertainties you are dealing with, you may want to know if you will get to stay in the house after filing for divorce, if you will get spousal support, if you can get child support, or if you will have custody or visitation rights during the divorce process.
“Pendente lite” is a Latin term meaning “pending litigation,” and it refers to a motion individuals can file with the court for temporary relief during divorce litigation. This type of motion is used in issues of child custody, child support, alimony, possession of the family home, or restraining orders, and the court will make them when the divorce process is pending. There are times when couples find that the prolonged divorce process is too long to wait for these issues to be sorted out by the court, thus necessitating relief through temporary measures.
When can I file a pendente lite motion?
You can seek out a temporary relief motion either when you are filing for divorce or at another point, usually within the first three to four months of the divorce filing. There are two contexts, and documents, to keep in mind when you are filing for temporary relief. The first is the Complaint for Divorce, which is the document filed by the first petitioner for divorce. The second document is the Answer to Complaint for Divorce, which is filed by the second spouse. Individuals are able to file a pendente lite in conjunction with either of these documents.
The Role of the Courts with Pendente lite motions
The hearing for a pendente lite motion may be the first court appearance for your divorce, and they can often be contentious depending on the litigants involved. Judges will analyze your circumstances and those of your spouse in order to determine whether you need temporary relief. For something like spousal support, the court will consider the life you have been accustomed to, and you may be awarded in such a way that you will be able to maintain that way of life. At the same time, if your spouse cannot afford to support you in that way then you will not be awarded as such.
For child custody and support, the courts will err on the side of the best interests of the child(ren). Family law courts generally have no interest in the tug of war between parents, so their decision will first and foremost consider the child(ren) before the concerns of the parents. These types of orders will be temporary and will remain in effect until an actual agreement can be worked out in the court. Similar to living arrangements, the court will consider the “material change in circumstances” with your child support and custody situation.
Courts may also issue a restraining order in connection with a pendente lite motion. This will be done in instances of violence or abuse, but courts may also issue these motions to preserve property during the divorce process.
Do You Need a Lawyer to File a Pendente Lite Order?
Since judges issue these orders based on how you present your situation, it would be wise to seek out the services of a divorce attorney to help you craft your petition. A good attorney will know what contexts will matter to the court, as well as how to craft an argument that will make an impact on the judge.