Legal battles concerning a divorce have a tendency to drag out longer than the parties would have preferred when they started the process. But what if you need for spousal support (also known as alimony) now? What if not getting that spousal support means not being able to pay the mortgage? How do you approach getting the financial relief you need quickly?

A Pendente Lite (PL) hearing, a latin phrase which literally means “pending the litigation”, is a type of hearing in which the court can grant temporary financial relief, paid by one spouse to the other, for spousal support/alimony.

The legal process for getting a divorce can take up to a year, or even longer in some cases. Not only does the couple need to have the grounds for divorce, but the family divisions of most courts in Maryland have full dockets. Especially when there are significant assets or children born of the marriage, drafting a separation agreement can be complicated, which can further extend the journey. As such, when one spouse is in need of child support or alimony, structuring the separation agreement to the parties’ mutual satisfaction is bound to require an extended time frame, thereby increasing legal fees too.

A Pendente Lite hearing can be requested by the party requesting financial relief. The exact scheduling time frame will vary by jurisdiction, but in Baltimore County, for example, the Pendente Lite hearing will, in theory, be held within 3-5 months of the original filing of the Complaint in a standard family law case (see diagram below and referred to as PL hearing).

However, while the Court can grant this relief QUICKLY, it is only granted on a TEMPORARY basis. All pendente lite financial relief granted by the Court is only effective until the day that the trial is actually held, however, a permanent child support or alimony agreement can be entered at that time up until the trial. In Baltimore County, for example, a trial may not be held until 9 months after the original filing of the Complaint, and even longer if there were any delays in the process. For those months between the Pendente Lite hearing and the trial date, the temporary order for child support or alimony would be effective as shown on the diagram above.

Unlike in a traditional alimony hearing, where the Court has before it about 12 factors of fairness to consider and weigh in determining what, if any, financial relief to order, in a Pendente Lite hearing, the Court only considers these 2 factors for each spouse:

1. Need; and
2. Ability to pay.

In other words, if you are the party in need of alimony, then you will need to demonstrate evidence of your need for that financial support, and demonstrate evidence of your spouse’s ability to pay that alimony.

If you are preparing for a divorce and know that you will need some financial relief, don’t wait for a trial date to start collecting. Contact the Law Offices of Kerri Cohen today to set up a consultation.