To maintain the status quo, many people choose to file a motion for Pendente Lite relief, which also helps you and your spouse address any pending issues throughout your divorce.

Divorces never get resolved overnight; some courts take months or even years to finalize divorce cases. Despite this, your life won’t stop, and you might want to proceed with the same lifestyle before the divorce. This article will explain what pendente lite means, how it works and what to expect when filing a motion for Pendente Lite relief.

What Is Pendente Lite?

Pendente Lite is a temporary relief pending the judge’s final decision or the resolution of the divorce case. During a marriage, couples or spouses are used to leading a specific lifestyle, but what happens to that lifestyle when they decide to get a divorce?

Many spouses seek to maintain their prior lifestyle; thus, a spouse might file a motion for pendente lite to maintain the status quo.

During divorce proceedings, the court might issue a temporary order or a pendente lite order to settle financial and parental issues or rights. To illustrate, if you are a couple with children, the judge may issue a Pendente Lite custody order so that you can still provide care and financial support to your children during your divorce case.

Pendente lite is common in divorce cases; however, it can apply to other legal matters and issues as well. Pendente lite facilitates obtaining justice and avoiding unfair external burdens that a spouse might face during complicated legal processes. For example, pendente lite is applied during a divorce to provide the lower-income spouse various forms of support.

Role of the Judge

Pendente lite orders stay in effect until the judge gives his final decision by the end of the trial or when the spouses reach a settlement agreement. Once the judge issues a pendente lite order, it is possible to seek or ask for changes, but the process is far from easy and can get too complicated.

The amount of pendente lite support that you will receive depends on your state. Some states are more flexible in determining how much you are entitled to receive, while others comply with stricter statutes. For example, in some states like California, family law attorneys often use a guideline calculator to help their clients anticipate the amount of money they might receive.

It is possible to avoid the courts only if you can reach an agreement with your spouse through mediation or simple negotiation. When you reach an agreement, you must submit it to the court for approval.

Pendente Lite Definition

Pendente lite is a Latin term, and it has been around for more than 300 years. It is pronounced as “pen-den-tay lee-tay,” and it stands for “pending litigation.”

Pendente lite is usually confused with “Lis Pendens,” which means “pending lawsuit.” They might sound similar, but each one of them goes with different legal situations. Lis Pendens is associated with issues regarding properties. In other words, it is a document that states that a divorce might affect the title of a specific property.

To add to this, Lis Pendens prevents any of the parties from selling unsettled properties during their divorces. After all, no one would buy a property when there’s an ownership dispute. Thus, you might file for Lis Pendens if there is a disagreement between you and your spouse about dividing or selling your house.

What Are the Types of Pendente Lite Orders?

In most divorce cases, filing for a pendente lite motion is a great option to settle any issues related to alimony, child custody and child support.

However, pendente lite orders can be associated with other problems as well, including:

  • Paying for house-related expenses
  • Marital home possession
  • Attorney fees
  • Divorce experts related payments (i.e., custody evaluators, forensic accountants, etc.)
  • Supervised visitation (this happens in case of drug and alcohol abuse)
  • Restraining orders (in case of domestic violence)
  • Possession of family vehicles
  • Maintaining other marital assets (i.e., vacation properties)
  • Restraining or blocking assets dissipation
  • Community property debts
  • Paying for health care costs
  • Maintaining life or health insurance

A pendente lite motion can be helpful in any cost-related issues. It is best to seek professional advice from experienced family attorneys regarding more serious situations involving child custody, child support and alimony.

You don’t want to figure out the legal system on your own; thus, a qualified attorney will fight for your rights and lead you through the right path. Making a good impression on the court through drafting a convincing pendente lite motion is necessary to receive the best outcome.

Reasons for Filing a Pendente Lite Motion

It is essential to file a Pendente Lite immediately or at the beginning of your divorce case. You will also need to attach a Case Information Statement, Certifications and Order along with the Motion.

Generally, the court will schedule a pendente lite hearing 28 days after you have filed the motion. You may be qualified for expedited hearing or emergency motion to avoid irreparable harm (i.e., the shut off of your gas or electricity). The judge will review all the evidence that you and your spouse present at the hearing and outline each one’s rights and responsibilities.

In addition to the above, the following are the main reasons why you must file for Pendente Lite Relief:

  • Your divorce case can take more than six months, and you and your ex-spouse need to settle specific issues as soon as possible.
  • In case children are involved and you are unemployed, filing a temporary order might be your best option. This usually happens when your spouse refuses to pay spousal or child support, household expenses or bills, childcare costs, attorney fees or medical or health insurance bills.
  • In case you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement regarding the care of your children, the court may set visitation schedules, establish custody or evaluate child custody.
  • This is important to restrain your spouse from taking any actions on joint bank accounts, canceling life or health insurance or other credit cards.
  • Through a pendente lite motion, the court can prevent your spouse from destroying, hiding, borrowing, transferring or selling any properties or assets that you acquired during the marriage (i.e., homes, cars, household utilities, furniture, electronics and other personal items).

What To Expect From a Pendente Lite Hearing

When determining if you should get pendente lite relief, the judge will closely examine your marital lifestyle. This means that you should be well-prepared and gather pertinent financial records before the hearing (you will have to do this both ways if you’re going through a contested divorce).

Furthermore, the court will request extra information about the following: 

  • Each spouse’s past vacations
  • Entertainment-related expenses
  • Pet-related expenses/duties
  • Inheritances or gifts from family members
  • Furnishings and collectibles in the household
  • Personal expenses that each spouse runs through a business (if applicable)
  • Spouses’ employment status
  • Status of investment, savings and checking accounts
  • The amount of cash that each spouse holds (meaning the available money on hand)
  • Information about the marital residence
  • Information about real estate and properties that both spouses own
  • Descriptions and extra information about real property, including boats, motorcycles, cars, recreational vehicles, airplanes or other large or highly expensive items
  • Children’s expenses including education, after-school activities, child care, child support and others

To provide accurate financial analysis to the court, you might want to get assistance from an experienced accountant to help you prepare a detailed lifestyle analysis.

The information above is critical and essential since it has a significant impact on the whole divorce case and can significantly influence the outcome of your case. Be prepared and work wisely, as first impressions are vital in any divorce case.

Remember that the judge will start to analyze and learn critical facts about your situation according to the information that you provide. Thus, the judge will already form an opinion about your case once you provide a detailed marital lifestyle analysis, and this can have a significant impact on their final decision.

Focus On the Facts

Some attorneys tend to overly focus on irrelevant and emotional issues, while the judge will be more focused on statutory matters. You can undoubtedly mention your emotional issues during a hearing; however, it is best to focus on the facts. After all, the judge will base your pendente lite fate on the facts and supporting documents you or your attorney provides.

If you’re someone who has never visited the courtroom before, then the process must be intimidating for you. Remember that a judge is there to make logical decisions based on facts; they are not there to purposely be mean to you, even if they rule against you.

In the majority of situations, a pendente lite hearing never even makes it to the courtroom. You and your spouse might be able to work together through your attorneys to reach an agreement regarding a temporary child or spousal support (without the need for a hearing).

Keep in mind that it’s totally fine to let the judge know that negotiations are taking place, and you need to postpone the hearing for a couple of hours. The judge will often consider this behavior as an effort to reach a mutual agreement, and if everything goes well, you and your attorney will formalize a preliminary agreement and present it to the judge for approval.

You don’t need to go in front of the judge to present your agreement. If otherwise, your hearing will be a short event (less than an hour in most cases).

During the Hearing

During a hearing, each spouse has enough time to present their arguments and evidence and question witnesses. Evidence and witnesses are usually related to financial issues (i.e., income and expenses).

Both of the parties will testify, and their attorneys will use financial sheets to present your financial affairs to the judge. Finally, the judge will issue a ruling, and your hearing will be over.

Can You Modify a Pendente Lite Order?

Yes, you can definitely modify a pendente lite order, but it’s not an easy process. In order to seek any modification, you need to prove to the court that there has been a material change of circumstances (this is the case in most jurisdictions).

To add to this, if you think the court issued an unfair pendente lite order, you will have the right to challenge it during your trial or try and change the conditions of your divorce settlement agreement.

In most cases, the judge considers making pendente lite orders permanent in a final divorce decree. Thus, you’ll be battling the idea that a pendente lite order might as well work permanently if it works well temporarily.

Remember that you’ll need to file a new pendente lite motion with the court if you do decide to challenge your pendente lite ruling. A “motion of reconsideration” is when you ask the judge to reconsider his ruling by letting him know that you’re not completely satisfied with current terms and you want to change those terms.

Seeking Modifications

It will be best to consult with your experienced attorney to determine what the best next move will be and whether you have enough grounds to ask for reconsideration (based on the law of your state). You will have to present new evidence for the court to consider your motion.

Most jurisdictions won’t allow you to file a motion if you present the same information that the judge already examined and made a decision on. However, during your initial hearing, you can try and prove to the judge that they misinterpreted or misunderstood the initial evidence.

Other valid reasons to seek modification would be a serious change in your personal situation (i.e., job loss, critical illness, etc.). In such cases, you’ll need to work closely with your attorney to file a motion explaining why obtaining a modification is mandatory in your situation.

Take note of the deadline to apply for a motion of reconsideration as most jurisdictions allow it for a limited time only (generally, the deadline is tight). After filing your motion, the court clerk will set a date for your court hearing.

What Should You Avoid Doing if You’re Seeking Pendente Lite Relief?

As already mentioned above, a pendente lite relief helps maintain the status quo temporarily. Thus, it is not the best time for you to enter into something unreasonable that could cause the judge to reconsider their decision about an award.

To illustrate, here is what you should avoid doing if you’re seeking a pendente lite relief:

  • Avoid openly dating a wealthy boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Avoid buying expensive gifts for your new significant other.
  • Be extremely cautious about what you choose to post on your social media account regarding your relationship status. Any evidence may turn against you.
  • Avoid making expensive purchases (i.e., buying a new car, taking trips worldwide, paying for plastic surgery, buying expensive jewelry, etc.).
  • Avoid making extensive renovations to your home or taking out any home-related loans.
  • Avoid cashing out all of your financial accounts, as the court will consider this as a way of hiding assets. Keep filing your taxes, paying your bills, and only make small donations to charities (if you support any).
  • Never consider quitting your job as a way to get a lower-paying job to avoid your temporary obligations.
  • Never ignore court orders. Ignoring court orders will be turned against you.
  • Search for the best attorney possible and avoid hiring inexperienced and aggressive attorneys. Please find the most experienced attorney that you possibly can and make sure they have your best interests in play at all times and situations.
  • Understand that you need to draw a line between your emotions and winning the case. Do not let your anger and the need to punish your ex-partner get the best of you, as it will turn against you and cost you your rights.
  • Avoid becoming combative and over-aggressive with your spouse. This means don’t move to another location and not tell your ex-spouse your new place, don’t deny them access to your children, don’t attempt to move out of state, don’t refuse to share valuable parenting information with your ex-spouse (i.e., activities, health, school, etc.), avoid threatening or sending unpleasant emails to your ex-spouse, etc.

Conclusion

  • A pendente lite relief helps couples maintain the status quo. It also facilitates addressing any pending issues throughout the whole divorce proceeding.
  • The court might issue a temporary order, or a pendente lite order, to settle financial and parental issues or rights.
  • A pendente lite order is typical in divorce cases; however, it can apply to other legal issues and cases as well.
  • One spouse might face several difficulties during a divorce case. Thus, a pendente lite order facilitates obtaining justice and avoiding unfair external burdens.
  • Pendente lite orders last until the judge gives his final decision.
  • There are different types of pendente lite orders, and they can help in settling any financial-related issues. It is best to consult with your attorney and understand precisely what pendente lite orders are.

A spouse can undoubtedly modify their pendente lite order; however, the procedure is not easy, and conditions apply. To add to this, most people have never visited a courtroom before, so the whole hearing process can be stressful.

Always keep in mind that the judge rules according to the facts and information you provide, and they are not there to be mean to anyone, even if they rule against you. Thus, make sure you go well-prepared for your hearings and seek the help of an experienced and professional attorney.

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Divorce & Finance