Pendente Lite Relief or Temporary Orders

An important term to know if you're facing divorce is "Pendente lite” which is Latin for “pending litigation”. An order for Pendente Lite Relief is meant to maintain the status quo of the marriage and spell out the "ground rules" while the divorce action is pending. 

By WomansDivorce | Answers by Brette Sember, J.D.

It is common for attorneys to request pendente lite relief when a divorce has been initiated, especially when there are minor children of the marriage or if there is a disparity between the relative incomes of each spouse . There are many issues that can be addressed in pendente lite orders, including: 

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Restraint from harassment or abuse of the other spouse
  • Maintaining marital assets
  • Exclusive use and occupancy of the family home
  • How debts and bills will be paid until the divorce is finalized
  • Possession of family vehicles
  • Maintaining life and health insurance policies
  • The payment of legal and professional fees

How to obtain Pendente Lite Relief

Sometimes spouses are able to agree that some type of temporary orders are necessary and acceptable. In these situations, their attorneys can draft a consent order outlining the terms of their agreement. Once this is signed by a judge, it becomes a pendent lite order.

When spouses can’t reach a mutual temporary agreement, a pendente lite motion must be filed. This can be done at the same time the divorce is filed or any time while the divorce is pending. Once the motion is filed, there will be a temporary hearing in which each side will present their evidence. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the judge will make the final decision regarding custody of the children, financial issues, and more. Once the order is signed by the judge, it can be enforced by the court.

Temporary orders remain in effect until permanent orders are in place (generally when the divorce is finalized), the case is dismissed, or the orders are modified.

FAQs on Pendente lite relief

The following answers from the legal expert can give you some insight into your rights concerning temporary support and how to proceed.

Isn't he required to provide for us until the divorce is over?

Lila's Question: Since we split, my husband has not financially helped me with any bills or with our children and it is hard for me to make it to my next pay period. He told me his attorney told him not to give us anything. Is it true he doesn't have to help us? Should I go ahead and file and hope to retain a lawyer before the hearing?

Brette's Answer: Unless there is a court order of child or spousal support he is not obligated. Your rights will be best protected if you have an attorney who can advise you of your rights and best way to pursue them. You are also entitled to file for temporary spousal and child support to get you through this difficult financial time.

How can I get by until the divorce goes through?

Sharon's Question: My husband and I decided to bifurcate the divorce, so that we could end the marriage and finish up the property settlement later. No temporary support was established in the initial proceedings, and I have since had major surgery and have no income. He gives me $200 a month to help pay for the insurance, but that is about to lapse because I had to choose between feeding my children and paying the premium. Both attorneys are dragging their feet. How can I get my attorney to get me some immediate support until everything is settled?

Brette's Answer: Call your attorney and say you have an emergency and need a call back within 24 hours. Explain that you need temporary financial relief NOW and cannot wait. You can get temporary child support and spousal support immediately. It may be that your attorney does not understand the financial situation you are in right now. Make him aware and stress the urgency of this matter.

Do I have to file for a divorce to get temporary support?

Kelley's Question: My husband left me for another woman and now lives with her in a one bedroom apartment. I have had to rent a new home while still paying half the mortgage on our house, pay all of my children's expenses, and meet my living expenses. We share custody equal time, but I am finding hard to make ends meet all on my own. What can I do?

Brette's Answer: You can go to court and get temporary child support and spousal support. These are available to you even if you haven't filed for divorce, or don't plan to. Your state family court handles these issues and no attorney is required. See an attorney if you can afford to.

Can I get temporary support without a lawyer?

Tammy's Question: I can't afford an attorney, I don't qualify for legal aid, and he is not giving me any money. Can I go to court to get temporary orders without an attorney?

Brette's Answer: Yes you certainly can. Just call or go there and find out what papers you need to file. You can also ask the court to order him to pay your legal bills, or part of them.

Is there a difference between a pendente lite hearing and a legal separation?

Brette's Answer: A pendente lite hearing is a hearing held to decide about temporary orders such as alimony, child support, custody, etc. A legal separation is the legal separating of a married couple, usually accomplished by signing a separation agreement, but it is possible to have a hearing if the parties do not agree.

Can I get temporary alimony without being legally separated?

Gail's Question: Can you receive alimony and still be married, or do you have to have to be legally separated?

Brette's Answer: You can receive temporary spousal support alimony while married while the divorce case is in progress.

Can I file for emergency support if there's a DV order in place?

Michelle's Question: I am currently separated 5 months with a permanent restraining order in place for DV for 3 yrs. At the hearing, the Judge said he didn't want to address spousal support due to my needing to get divorced. I am in serious need of help with the rent and bills. Should I go back to court and file for emergency support?

Brette's Answer: If you need support you should definitely file for it. Judges sometimes get annoyed if you file for support and then immediately file for divorce - you're then asking for it in two places. If you're not filing for divorce right now, you can ask for support.

What can I do if he had the pendente lite hearing postponed?

Scarlett's Question: My husband had our pendente lite hearing postponed. It has been over a month and still no pendente lite hearing. I need support really soon to pay attorney fees and to keep up the household. What can I do to hurry things up?

Brette's Answer: You need to file an emergency motion for support.

How long does temporary support last?

Donna's Question: Can I file for a temporary order of support if my husband filed for a non-contested divorce? Also, how long will that temporary support last?

Brette's Answer: Yes. A temporary order lasts until a permanent order takes its place (or the temporary order is somehow modified). Good luck.

How can I stop him from transferring property during our divorce?

Jennifer's Question: We've been separated for 3 months. Before I moved out, we had two vehicles together. He turned over ownership of one of the vehicles to his brother. Now he is trying to turn over the other one to his parents. How can I stop this?

Brette's Answer: You can get a temporary order which prohibits him from transferring ownership of any marital assets. You should consult with a lawyer to make sure it is done correctly.

Is he responsible for insurance while we're separated?

Erika's Question: I am 32 weeks pregnant and my husband has told that me he was done with me. He is currently in the United States Army but trying to get out. If he does, will he still be the one who has to take care of the insurance to cover the birth of the new baby?

Brette's Answer: I'm sorry to hear you're in this difficult situation. As long as you are married, you can still be carried on his health insurance plan. However if he doesn't have a health insurance plan, that complicates things. You have several options if he has no insurance. You can apply for a state-funded health plan which provides coverage on a sliding scale. You can list your husband as the responsible party for the birth costs, but realize the hospital is going to want you to pay too. You can talk to your local social services department about other options. You can also go to court and file for temporary spousal support, which could include health insurance or covering the costs for the birth. Good luck with this.

Does he have to put money in a joint account during divorce?

Davina's Question: When two people file for divorce, is the man still ordered to put income into the joint account until the divorce is final?

Brette's Answer: When a couple files for a divorce, the court may put temporary orders into place that direct how their finances are to be handled while the case is pending. Generally, the court will create temporary spousal support which may include payments as well as responsibility for joint bills. But it depends on the case, and in some cases, the court may not do any of this.

Can I get him to pay the mortgage until our divorce is over?

Kristy's Question: My husband filed for divorce and left me stuck with the payments. I was the only one on the mortgage simply because I had a better credit score and we were able to get a better rate. In a community property state, isn't he still liable to pay at least half? Any ideas on what I can do?

Brette's Answer: You need to go to court and seek a temporary order about payments on the house while the case is pending. You need to see an attorney though to make sure this is done correctly and in a timely fashion.

What if he didn't pay the mortgage payments like he was ordered to?

Jenni's Question: I filed for divorce three months ago. My husband was court ordered to continue paying for the mortgage while I live there with our four children. I just found out that he is not paying the mortgage and he contacted the bank and gave them the property. (His name is only on the home even though we brought during the marriage) What happens now?

Brette's Answer: If you don't have an attorney, get one. You need to go back to court ASAP. He has violated a court order. You need legal assistance.

What can I do if he didn’t comply with the temporary orders?

Susan's Question: I have a status quo order in effect. I have gone back to court several times because my husband wouldn't follow it. The divorce judgment became effective last week. My lawyer pushed the status quo orders aside to get a judgment. I have dealt with debt, debt collectors, ruined credit, etc. because the status quo orders weren't followed. Shouldn't I have been paid the money he owed me under the status quo orders until the judgment was in effect? My lawyer says that we can do a "show cause", but what else can I do?

Brette's Answer: The best thing to do is meet with your attorney and have a list of everything you feel has not been resolved and ask him or her to help you get it resolved. I don't know the details of your situation nor of the laws in your state, but in some instances it's easier to push forward to resolve the entire case than to get stalled on individual matters. Discuss with your attorney what you can do now to resolve the issues you feel are outstanding.

Can I have his license revoked for not paying temporary support?

Marg's Question: My soon-to-be-ex filed for a divorce 4 months ago. There is a Pendente Lite Relief order in effect, but he decided he could not pay the entire amount. I'm two months behind in rent and essentially broke. Our trial date was canceled. Can I call the courts on my own to have his license revoked? I don't want him arrested, as he is the father of my daughter.

Brette's Answer: Trials aren't cancelled; they are rescheduled, unless you reach a settlement. Find out your rescheduled date. If he is behind on child support, you can contact your state child support enforcement office. If he is behind on spousal support, you need to go back to court for a violation.


Related Articles:

Also see:

  1. Divorce
  2. How to Divorce
  3. Pendente lite relief