Pendente Lite: What Does It Mean and How Does It Apply to My Maryland/DC Divorce?

divorcing couple with their children fighting over pendente lite support

Pendente lite is a legal term that is Latin for “pending during litigation.” Pendente lite has particular importance for divorce cases in both Maryland and District of Columbia. In both jurisdictions, pursuant to written request of one spouse or the other, Maryland and DC divorce courts can order certain types of actions WHILE the divorce proceedings are ongoing. There are three very important actions that the divorce court can order:

  • Payment of spousal support pending litigation
  • Payment of child support (including things like maintaining health insurance coverage) and
  • Payment by one spouse of the other spouse’s attorney fees

While these are probably the three most important pendente lite actions that can be taken, Maryland and DC divorce courts can take many other actions with respect to custody, use of the marital home, use of vacation and other real property, etc.

What is the purpose of Pendent Lite?

One can think of pendente lite actions as temporary actions by the court until the final resolution of the proceedings. The purpose of granting a pendente lite request is, generally, to maintain the status quo as between the spouse AND to ensure that one spouse does not get the “upper hand” against the other through control of finances and property. Pendente lite benefits can be very important in divorce proceedings that are expected to take a long time. If you have questions about obtaining pendente lite benefits while your divorce proceedings are ongoing here Maryland or the District of Columbia, call us at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. Call for a consultation at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC.

How is Pendente Lite Granted?

In Maryland, pendente lite request can be granted pursuant to MD Fam. Law Code, § 11-110. For financial-related pendente lite requests, the Maryland divorce court bases its decision on two factors: the need of the requesting spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. In the District of Columbia, pendente lite requests are governed by D.C. Code, § 16–911. In DC, financial-related requests are evaluated based on need and the ability to pay. However, DC divorce courts will also consider other factual matters such as the spouses’ standard of living, length of the marriage, other financial resources and assets of the respective spouses, etc.

As noted, a request for benefits must be made in writing to the respective divorce court judge. Generally, the court will set a schedule and allow the other spouse’s attorneys an opportunity to respond in writing. Within about 30 days, the divorce court will hold a hearing with respect to the pendente lite request. The court may make a decision based on the paper filings, but may also accept other documentary evidence and the testimony of relevant witnesses (such as the spouses). Note that such benefits are generally “back-dated” to the time of the initial filing of the divorce action. Note also that, at the time when the court makes a final decision in the divorce case, the court can “look back” and adjust the final divorce decree based on pendente lite benefits that were granted.

Maryland and DC Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

For more information, contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and DC divorce, family law and estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. We also have proven experience with divorce and family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC.

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