By David L. Duff of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in Family Law on Wednesday, December 4, 2013.
In most court systems throughout Virginia, it would not be unusual to take as long as a year from the time of filing a divorce complaint until a final trial has taken place on that divorce action. During this pendente lite (“pending the litigation”) period of time, the courts are empowered by statute to grant either party to the divorce proceeding certain interim relief. Such relief most often includes the following:
1. Determination of temporary custody of children and concomitant visitation rights for the non-custodial parent;
2. Temporary spousal support (alimony) and child support;
3. The right to occupy the marital home to the exclusion of the other spouse;
4. The payment of a mortgage, or other marital debts necessary to maintain marital assets until the final divorce trial;
5. The issuance of a restraining order to prevent one spouse from transferring, withholding, or dissipating marital monies; and
6. Requiring the more financially secure spouse to advance funds to the other spouse for payment toward attorneys fees, expert witness charges expected to be incurred in the divorce litigation.
The purpose of Virginia’s pendente lite statute is to maintain the status quo, as nearly as possible, until the court can hear the evidence and rule on the divorce issues at the final trial. For many spouses who are truly blindsided by a sudden and unexpected divorce action, it provides a procedure for obtaining prompt assistance from a court for money and other necessities.
Any competent divorce attorney should know when and how to take advantage of the opportunities available under Virginia’s pendente lite statute.