While You Wait: Pendente Lite Orders

Litigation is costly and time-consuming. Especially in family cases, the fight may be harder than you expect. Not only is the financial reality burdensome, but the personal nature of these matters is exhausting. Pendente lite (Latin for “pending litigation”) orders exist in order to maintain the status quo—particularly when minors are involved.

As we discussed in our blog post on Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, couples undergoing divorce proceedings are bound by four restrictions immediately upon filing. These seek to protect both parties’ interests—whether community property or children. When more immediate relief is necessary, pendente lite orders may be sought.

They primarily concern the following:

  • Child custody and visitation.
  • Child and/or spousal support.
    • Contrary to what you might expect, separated spouses seeking a divorce are not financially responsible to support one another. An interesting point to note here is that a party may be entitled to pendente lite spousal support, even if the party is not entitled to spousal support when the action is finally determined.
  • Domestic violence restraining orders.
  • Costs and attorney’s fees.

Pursuing a pendente lite order in a family law matter does not hinder either party’s ability to make changes after the fact. A case will ultimately only be formally decided in court, in accordance with the circumstances present at the time of hearing or trial. With that said, a pendente lite order does have the practical benefit of establishing a status quo between the parties regarding shared parenting arrangements, which a court may be reluctant to change later. In short, pendente lite orders can set the stage for permanent (or post-dissolution) rulings.

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