What do you do if either you or your spouse file for a divorce regarding financial support? The financial details of maintaining your monthly living expenses during this difficult time are covered in what is called “Pendente lite” support. Pendente lite means “pending the litigation.” The objective of a pendente lite support application is to try to maintain the financial status quo pending the resolution of the matter by the courts.
How is Pendente Lite Support Determined?
The purpose of any pendente lite award is to continue the standard living maintained by both of you during the course of marriage, what is referred to as the “marital status quo.” In other words, the lifestyle maintained by you and your spouse during the marriage provides the foundation upon which to determine the appropriate level of pendent lite support.
To obtain pendente lite support during the divorce proceedings, you can either have a voluntary agreement or file an application with the court. If you have a voluntary agreement with your soon to be ex-spouse, then attorneys for both spouses must make a determination as to whether the amount being paid voluntarily is equal to or greater than what a court would award on a pendente lite application. If the voluntary support is determined to be fair and reasonable, a consent order outlining the agreement is entered into by both parties. This consent order listing the terms and conditions of the pendente lite agreement is ultimately signed by a judge and becomes the supported spouse’s pendente lite award.
If, however, the parties cannot agree on what the pendente lite support should be, an application is filed with the court to obtain pendente lite support relief. This application includes the following:
- Certification stating the factual circumstances of your lifestyle.
- Case Information Statement – outlining both parties’ incomes, assets, and monthly expenses.
In this case, the determination of pendente lite support is made based on:
- Needs of the supported spouse
- Means of the supporting spouse
- Standard of living of both parties
Whether it is derived through mutual agreeement or the submission of a court application, pendente lite support is a very critical part of the divorce proceedings because it lays the groundwork for the final disposition of the divorce and support awards.
Types of Final Support in Divorce Proceedings
“Final” support is what is determined at a final hearing replacing the “temporary” support that was granted before on a pendente lite application. In the court’s determination, final support is determined according to each individual case’s circumstances. The actual need, ability to pay, and the duration of the marriage are all taken into account in the final decision regarding final support.
The final support award is generally what is called alimony and/or child support. However, there are other equitable distribution types where equities are apparent but the facts do not fit within the normal final support category of alimony and child support. These are as follows:
- Lump Sum Payments – for the most part, applicable to alimony decisions and not child support. Also, the court never really terminates the right of the wife to alimony; ultimately, the parties themselves cannot permanently bargain away their right for support.
- Periodic Support – “periodic” payments are made most frequently on a monthly or weekly basis and will end upon the death of the payor, the death of the payee, or the remarriage of the payee. In most cases, the payee receiving periodic support is the custodial parent meaning that the support includes alimony and child support.
- Rehabilitative Alimony – alimony payable for a short, but specific and terminable period of time, which will cease when the payee, after exercising reasonable efforts, is in a position of self-support.
- Limited Duration Alimony – applicable in cases in which rehabilitative alimony was unnecessary and permanent alimony was not appropriate since the marriage may have been short, for example.
- Reimbursement Alimony – used to provide a fair and effective means of compensating a supporting spouse who contributed financially to the spouse’s successful professional training with the anticipation of benefitting from future financial rewards (i.e. putting someone through law or medical school).
- Separate Maintenance – applicable during a separation where the payor of support neglects to provide for the payee; in this case, the court may order suitable support and maintenance to be paid for the payee and their children. If support is not paid, the court may impose a lien against the real and personal property of the payee who lives in or owns property in New Jersey to secure payment of the overdue support. This action for support does not affect the status of the marriage.
- Support Orders in Domestic Violence Actions – support for the plaintiff and children may be ordered in domestic violence actions.
Termination of Support Obligations
Termination of support obligations occurs in the event of:
- Death of a party or a child
- Remarriage of the payee
- Emancipation of a child
- Support of Spouse – historically, the final and permanent, fixed, periodic alimony is terminated upon the death of the payor, the death of the payee, or the remarriage of the payee, whichever occurs first. Also, support is terminated after cohabitation of the payee.
- Support of Children – child support is terminated upon the death of the payor, or upon the emancipation of the child being supported (when a child is or is expected to be self-supporting). In many cases, the obligation terminates when the child is around 18 years old.