Pendente Lite Hearings in Maryland
Pendente Lite Hearings provide temporary court-ordered relief to preserve the status quo and “settle the waters" until the final trial.
The time immediately following a separation can be very chaotic for many reasons. The emotional and financial trauma of separation is compounded by the fact that there are no rules or guidelines to direct both sides on what to do. Not surprisingly the newly separated husband and wife cannot agree on anything and may be very angry at one another. As a result each side may follow his or her emotions and matters can be become much worse. While it is always advisable for the parties to reach a settlement, even if it is only temporary, when no temporary settlement is reached the Court will schedule a pendente lite hearing. A pendente lite hearing is scheduling at the Court’s Scheduling Conference so you will not know the exact date of the pendente lite hearing until then.
"Pendente lite" is Latin for "pending litigation" and refers to temporary relief the Court can award to spouses while their divorce litigation is pending. A pendente lite hearing is typically scheduled within 3-4 months of the filing of the initial Complaint. It is important in some cases to resolve certain issues prior to the final divorce since some divorces may take a year or two to become “ripe" for the court to hear and the parties may need a temporary decision on issues during that wait time. In this way, a pendente lite hearing provides a venue to “settle the waters" by ordering temporary actions so that the parties have rules to follow and each side can breath easier knowing what to expect. At the hearing, the Court can award temporary relief to either party for the following issues:
- Legal Custody
- Physical Custody
- Child Support
- Child Support Arrears dating back to the date of filing
- Alimony/Payment of Joint Bills/Mortgage Payments
- Alimony Arrears dating back to the date of filing or the date of separation
- Use and Possession of the House
- Use and Possession of the Family Use Vehicle and/or Personal Property
- Attorney Fees/Litigation Costs
- Health Insurance Coverage
At the pendente lite hearing, Master (occasionally a PL hearing will be before a Judge) will make a ruling on these issues and unless a party files exceptions to the ruling, that ruling will stay in effect until the final trial for Absolute Divorce Hearing where the issues and evidence will be re-presented to a Judge and in effect re-litigated. It is important to note that the rulings at the pendente lite hearing are not binding on the Judge at the final hearing. However, depending on the circumstances of the case, if everything is going well enough after the pendente lite ruling it is very likely that the Judge’s Order will be similar to the pendente lite ruling.