The Divorce Process – Pendente Lite Hearing

Brandon WaltripDivorce & Child Custody

This blog is the fourth in a series covering the Divorce Process. Specifically, this blog looks at Pendente lite hearings; what they are, the purpose in the divorce, and what a party should expect at the hearing . If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Williamsburg, York County, or New Kent County, please contact Waltrip Firm, PC and schedule a free consultation.

Pendente lite is latin for awaiting the litigation. It is one of the most common motions/hearings in a divorce case and often times can establish the tone and strategy for the remaining litigation. I will refer to the Pendente lite hearing for the rest of this article as the PL Hearing.

What is the Pendente Lite Hearing & What is its purpose?

Pendente lite is latin for “awaiting the litigation.” It is one of the most common motions/hearings in a divorce case and often times can establish the tone and strategy for the remaining litigation. The hearing is made by motion of one or both parties, and scheduled with the Court. The Court will hear evidence and then via a Pendente lite Order establish certain parameters during the divorce litigation. Often times these parameters will include spousal & child support, possession of a vehicle(s), the marital home, freezing or liquidating of bank and investment accounts, or even the payment of attorney’s fees. The Court can also determine custody and visitation at the hearing. To put it simply, the purpose of the Pendente lite hearing is to establish who will have what and who will pay for what during the divorce process.

What to expect at a PL Hearing?

In most jurisdictions, at least in Virginia, the Court will take testimony from both parties at the hearing. Concerning support, the court will almost always use guidelines to determine what amount of support will be awarded. These guidelines take into consideration the gross income of the parties, whether one party is making payments on a mortgage, insurance, car payments, health insurance, and/or any family debt.

To determine things such as possession of the marital home, or custody & visitation, the Judge will take testimony regarding the underlying facts of the divorce, but this maybe limited to the testimony of the parties concerning who is the primary care-giver and who is the primary financial provider.

It is important to understand that a ruling at a Pendente lite hearing is not the final order of the divorce. Many times the amount of support will change, as well as the custody and visitation arrangement when the divorce is finalized. However, it is important to note that in most jurisdictions the Judge hearing testimony at the hearing may very well be the Judge at the trial of the Divorce and it is never to early to begin setting the theme and stage for arguments to be made at trial.

How long is the hearing?

The length of a Pendente lite hearing can vary. If the parties have worked out most of the issues it could be a short as fifteen minutes. If there are a litany of issues, then the hearing could last an hour to an hour and a half. Any party should understand that Judge’s do not often want to expend long amounts of time at these hearings, but will take the appropriate amount of testimony to make the determinations requested.

Once the Judge rules on the variety of issues an order will be entered by the court. Although there is no complete bar to amending this order during the divorce, a party is required to demonstrate a material change in circumstances to overturn the original order. During a divorce this rarely happens, but may happen under circumstances where a party loses their employment, children of age change custody, or homes are foreclosed or sold by the parties.

Pendente lite hearings are an important part of the divorce process. The purpose is to establish parameters such as support, and possession of assets during the divorce litigation. Although not a final order, the Pendente lite hearing is a good opportunity to establish themes to be argued at the trial of the divorce. If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Williamsburg, York County, or New Kent County please contact Waltrip Firm, PC for a free consultation.