Pendente lite. It’s pronounced “pen-den-tay lee-tay” and it’s Latin for “pending the ligation.” The phrase refers to motions made before a court for judicial relief  (outcomes) needed by a party  during the pendency of a lawsuit, without waiting until it ends. For example, in a divorce the “non-monied” spouse may need to apply to the court for monetary support from the “monied” spouse while the case is ongoing, without waiting for its conclusion. This can be practical if the case is likely to be pending longer than a party can reasonably wait.

Here are some things that can be accomplished with pendente lite motions in divorce:

  1. Temporary child support;
  2. Temporary spousal maintenance;
  3. Temporary custody and visitation (though often these issues will be referred for a hearing)
  4. Interim legal fees;
  5. Expert witness fees;
  6. Exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence;
  7. Non-compliance with the court’s Automatic Orders (for example, requirements to maintain health insurance coverage, auto insurance coverage, not change beneficiary designations, etc.)
  8. Immediate restraints if a spouse removes or dissipates marital assets or is attempting to do so;
  9. Restraints on a spouse undertaking certain actions (often if business assets are involved);
  10. Directing the payment of specific expenses;
  11. Directing the division of certain payments between spouses during pendency of the case (for example, IRA distributions or loan payments 50% to each spouse rather that 100% to one or the other).

If the parties’ interim issues can be resolved by agreement, then that is the first choice of good matrimonial lawyers as it is most economical for their clients. However, if consensual resolution is not possible, or if a spouse has taken improper action that requires immediate court intervention, then a lawyer should file a pendente lite  motion as soon as possible.

It is important to understand that upon the filing of the motion, the other side will be given time to respond to the motion, and the moving party will then have one last opportunity to reply.   It customarily takes a court 30-60 days to issue a decision from the time the reply is filed with the Court.   And of course, applying for judicial relief pendente lite doesn’t mean you’ll get all the relief you ask for.  But with a motion pendente lite, you can at least seek relief without waiting for the court’s final judgment.

It is best to discuss all of the considerations related to these applications with your attorney. because not only may the motion and the content of the motion have various strategic and other good and/or bad ramifications, but the terms of the decision often will then set the tone for how the remainder of the action may or may proceed.