The divorce process can take a long time — anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the complexity of the issues and the level of conflict.
However, certain issues may need to be addressed more quickly than that. That’s where a “pendente lite” hearing comes in.
What does that mean? Translated from Latin, it means “waiting for litigation.” But for your purposes, it’s a procedure in which you can file a motion with the court seeking a temporary order on divorce-related matters that need to be dealt with right away and can’t wait for the divorce to be finalized. You can file a pendente lite motion at any point during the process.
For example, it’s common to use pendente lite relief to obtain an order for temporary but legally enforceable child custody arrangements before the divorce is final.
Additionally, the pendente lite process can be used for temporary child support orders so that the spouse with less income isn’t waiting months or years before receiving a child support award in the final divorce judgment.
Meanwhile, if one spouse — say the lower-income spouse — has to move out and cover additional rent or a mortgage, that person might file a pendente lite motion seeking an order that the higher-income spouse help cover such expenses.
Courts also have a bit of flexibility with pendente lite motions. They can issue temporary orders that are in place for the entire duration of the divorce process or with a specific time limit, depending on the individual facts and circumstances of the case.
It should be noted that each state has its own divorce laws and procedural rules. That means how the pendente lite process works and what it covers may differ depending on location. Call an attorney to learn how it works where you live.