Temporary Court Decisions in the Meantime of Divorce

Posted on: 4 September 2015

Pendente lite (pronounced pen-den-tay lee-tay) hearings are short-cause or preliminary court proceedings that are held before the major litigation of a divorce case.  A preliminary hearing can be scheduled to handle matters of necessity such as child support, visitation and temporary custody, or spousal support. What is decided at these hearings may or may not be kept the same in the eventual divorce agreement.

Visitation or Temporary Custody

To get a temporary custody order, you will have to show that what you want is in the best interests of the children involved. Factors the judge will consider are these:

  • The safety of the children if the other parent is abusive
  • The willingness you and the other parent have to cooperate with visitation or joint custody if that is what is desired or required
  • Whether you have been the primary caretaker of the children, especially if the children are infants or preschool age
  • Whether the environment where the children would stay is safe and adequate for their needs
  • How the children's education will be affected

If you are fleeing an abusive relationship, you will need to provide some proof that the other parent is abusive, incompetent, or otherwise endangering the children by their behavior. This can be in the form of police reports of past incidents, witness testimony, medical reports, and psychiatric records. If the person has been threatening you in emails, through texting, or in other tangible ways, you may use these as evidence.

You may also need a temporary order to get visitation spelled out if your mate has custody of the children and is refusing to allow you to see them.

Child and Spousal Support

A temporary order of child support and/or alimony can be obtained through a short-cause proceeding.  

Child support will generally be based on each parent's income and assets, which parent has custody, the ages of the children, and their normal expenses. The resulting order may be carried through to the permanent order when the divorce is granted, so if you need it raised to a more sustainable amount, you should inform the court before the final proceeding.

Temporary alimony may be dependent on the state statutes regarding it, and if it is awarded, it does not mean that spousal support will necessarily be awarded after the divorce. You must show both your financial need and the ability of your spouse to pay it. Factors that may be considered are these:

  • The standard of living you have become accustomed to during the marriage and the costs for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and transportation
  • Your ability to support yourself
  • Whether you are the primary caretaker of your pre-school children or a disabled dependent
  • The age and physical condition of you and your spouse

Other Matters

Other matters that might require temporary orders from the court include mortgage payments, use of automobiles, insurance payments, and medical bill payments. If you are concerned that your spouse is transferring assets out of their name, you can get an order to stop this.

In an Emergency

Since court calendars are often very crowded, it may be a month or more before you can get a court date. If you can't wait that long, you can request an emergency hearing. 

To find out what the legal particulars are in your state for your situation, you will need to consult a family law attorney, such as one from Hurth Sisk & Blakemore LLP.