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Pendente Lite Child Support

What is Pendente Lite Child Support?

patrickcrawford | January 15, 2023
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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.

 

Requesting Pendente Lite Relief

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.

Pendente Lite Child Support

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:

  • Your request must identify the legal basis for requesting emergency or pendente lite relief;
  • Your request must be supported by an affidavit setting forth your personal knowledge and the specific facts demonstrating your reason you believe an immediate emergency or pendente lite hearing is necessary; and
  • Your request must be legible.

 

Who Can Preside Over 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:

  • Regulate all hearing proceedings;
  • Rule upon the admissibility of evidence;
  • Examine witnesses;
  • Recommend findings of fact and conclusions of law to the court; 
  • Prepare written recommendations to the court; and
  • Propose a pendente lite order to be reviewed by the court.

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.

 

How Much Time is Allotted for a Pendente Lite Hearing?

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. 

 

When is a Decision Made Following the Hearing?

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. 

Pendente Lite Child Support

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. 

 

How Long Does a Pendente Lite Support Order Stay in Effect?

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. 

 

Things to Avoid During Pendente Lite Hearings

There are certain steps you should NOT take during pendente lite hearings:

  • Spending a sizable amount of money: buying a car, making renovations to your house, taking an expensive vacation, etc.
  • Living situation: moving out-of-state, especially while having custody of your child(ren) or refusing to tell your spouse where you currently live
  • Employment: quitting your job or taking a lower-paying job

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.

 

An Annapolis Divorce Lawyer Protecting Your Rights

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. 


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