Sometimes a court will issue an order of child support “pending the litigation.” This is known as pendente lite child support. This will only grant temporary support and is not a final support order.
Such issues as visitation, custody, and support are addressed during pendente lite hearings. To give you a better understanding of pendente lite child support, the Law Office of Patrick Crawford has drafted a general overview of pendente lite child support.
Pendente lite is not automatically issued by the court. If a spouse would like temporary child support issued, then they will need to place a separate request.
Although not as common, pendente lite relief can be requested early in the divorce proceedings. If the request is submitted with the filing of the complaint (the document that initiates the divorce hearings), then your spouse will have thirty (30) days to respond.
In divorce proceedings, the person filing for divorce is called the plaintiff/petitioner, and the opposing party (the spouse) is called the defendant/respondent.
If your request is made after the complaint is filed, such as during the scheduling conference, then the request will be treated as a separate motion.
A motion is one party requesting the court to take action. A motion requires a certificate of service, meaning that you will have to prove to the court that the papers were formally served to your spouse. The respondent has fifteen (15) days to respond (issue an answer). The court will not rule on your request for a hearing unless you provide proof of service.
Maryland courts also have the following requirements in requesting pendente lite hearings:
A family magistrate, formerly known as a “master,” can preside over pendente lite hearings. A family magistrate is an officer of the circuit court who is selected by the judges of the court to hear certain matters pertaining to family law and juvenile cases.
Magistrates have the power to:
A family magistrate will propose a pendente lite order to the court. In allowing family magistrates to preside on pendente lite issues, it helps cases to move more quickly through the court system.
Time limits are imposed based on what type of case is being heard.
In Annapolis, for example, pendente lite hearings discussing custody matters are given a two-hour time limit. However, all other cases would have a one-hour time limit, including child support.
The family magistrate will review all admissible testimony and evidence and prepare written recommendations within ten (10) days of the conclusion of the hearing. Part of the magistrate’s written report will include a proposed child support order.
The parties have the opportunity to object to certain recommendations by filing what is called an “exception” with the clerk’s office. The exception must be in writing and include details of the error asserted in the magistrate’s report.
A judge of the circuit court will review the exceptions filed and make a final decision. Unless a party requests a hearing, the court may make a ruling after the exceptions are filed. If a party would like a hearing, they must request so within five (5) days after the exceptions have been served to the other party.
If no exceptions are filed, then the court will make a judgment and issue a pendente lite or temporary support order. The order will include the method by which child support is being paid to the custodial parent and even back support. Back support would calculate the amount of support due from the obliging parent from the time of the pendente lite request to the ruling.
A pendente lite child support order will remain in effect until the final divorce decree is issued. If the temporary child support arrangement worked well for you, then you can ask your counsel to negotiate the same arrangement as part of your final divorce decree. (In Maryland, the final divorce decree is known as the “absolute divorce decree.”)
However, do not assume that a pendente lite order will remain in effect following the absolute divorce decree. Especially if new evidence comes to light or there is a “material change in circumstances,” a judge may change the arrangement in the final divorce proceeding.
There are certain steps you should NOT take during pendente lite hearings:
Any of these steps could result in the court not awarding you child support or custody. Especially if you spend a large amount of money, the court may reason that you do not need financial help to raise your child(ren).
Always consult an Annapolis divorce lawyer if you are contemplating making any major changes during a pendente lite order.
Getting a divorce from your partner is a time of uncertainty. Don’t let part of that uncertainty include how to support your children. Attorney Patrick Crawford will fight to get you the necessary support to comfortably provide for your child. Contact Patrick today to schedule a consultation.