Waiting for a final decision on important matters in family court can be agonizing. It's not uncommon for these cases to take a year or longer to be resolved.
But sometimes, there is a need for much more expedient resolution, at least in the interim. For these situations, courts will hold what are known as “pendent lite hearings.” Pendent lite is Latin for “pending litigation,” and it is way for the court to offer temporary relief while awaiting a more in-depth analysis and final decision.
Birmingham Divorce Lawyer Steven Eversole, of Eversole LLC, works with families to provide short-term relief while formulating strategy on long-term solutions.
These hearings are often set within days or weeks of the request, and they are quite brief. That means the requesting party must know what they want ahead of time, be prepared to prove why it's necessary, and do so in a compelling way. It's key to have an advocate who is clear, concise and convincing.
Some various forms of temporary relief spouses may request include:
- Forcing one spouse from the family home, or restraining one from coming near the other
- Establishing child custody and/or parenting time arrangements
- Providing temporary spousal support/alimony
- Providing temporary child support
- Issuing an order to both spouses to refrain from selling valuable assets
- Stipulating which spouse may have access to family home, car and other jointly-owned items
These orders aren't the final say on the matter, but if both spouses find the arrangements workable and fair, they may choose to propose it as part of a final marital agreement, to be reviewed and approved by the judge.
Are Temporary Support Orders Necessary?
It is not mandatory that either party request a pendent lite hearing to hammer out all pending issues. Both parties could agree to those terms outside of court.
However, absent a court order, there would be no obligation of either party to abide by the terms. One parent could arbitrarily decide not to abide by the agreed-upon visitation schedule. Another might refuse to pay the amount of support or mortgage payments he or she had agreed to cover while the action was pending.
This might cause not just emotional upheaval, but financial difficulties as well. However, there would be no court sanctions or penalties for the individual who violated the agreement because it was never formalized in court.
That's why we generally recommend requesting a hearing. At the very least, the court can formalize the temporary agreement you and your spouse have reached, which provides incentive for each party to abide by those terms.
We believe it's especially important to file for temporary support orders when one parent will be taking on the lion's share of child care. That parent needs to make sure the children are provided for.
Beyond that, it can protect the spouse with physical custody of being accused of kidnapping by the other. That may seem extreme, but people are sometimes capable of uncharacteristic acts when they are under stress or feel wronged. If such an accusation is ever made, a parent with an order of temporary custody could easily prove their standing with a court order in hand.
Temporary support orders can also be beneficial even if you are opting for a no-fault divorce and even if you aren't contesting any of the major issues on the table. It simply provides a layer of protection for you and your children.
How to Request Temporary Support
A person can file for temporary relief at any point after the divorce action is filed but before the divorce is finalized. This could be for spousal or child support, and the order by the judge would be in effect until the divorce is completed.
Petitioners requesting temporary relief will need to:
- File a request stating what you want (called an “order to show cause”)
- File a supporting declaration, which details the legal justification for issuance of the temporary order
- Submit a proposed temporary order that could simply be signed by the judge if approved
- File proof of service, showing all paperwork has been properly delivered to your spouse
Your attorney can assist you in determining the best course of action.
When reviewing requests for temporary child support, the court is going to adhere to Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration as the Alabama Child Support Calculation. While courts do take into consideration agreements couples have reached, the judge generally will not deviate from those guidelines to allow child support payments for less without good reason. To do so is not considered in the best interest of the children.