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Pendente Lite (Temporary Custody and Support)

Pendente Lite is a snobby legal term which inherently sounds sophisticated. Like most legal terms of art or causes of actions, it’s a Latin phrase; it means “while the litigation is pending.”

The phrase in Missouri Law almost exclusively refers to a judgment pending a final decree and dissolution of marriage. Consider the following: say A and B are going through a dissolution of marriage proceeding in Saint Louis County. They have four children, all of which are under the age of 15 — and thus are minors. A and B have substantial assets and liabilities which are deemed to be marital property. The Court, therefore,will have its hands full in making an equitable division of said property. A and B both travel with their families frequently, and each family would like to take the four children along with them. The Christmas Season is approaching and both A and B would like to have the kids with them for their family gatherings. Where will the kids be? Who is paying the children’s expenses during the litigation? What is their physical custody schedule? If one spouse was relying solely on the other for income during the marriage, how is he/she carrying on without the income? A judgment or settlement of the terms of the dissolution of marriage is not near.

Enter the Motion Pendente Lite (PDL). A PDL is a temporary court order as it relates to child support, child custody, and maintenance (aka alimony). It is where one — but usually both — parties petition the Court to enter temporary arrangements pending the dissolution. What makes the PDL important is that it is backed by the power and authority of the Court, and thus is binding. Upon the filing of a PDL motion, a date for hearing/trial is generally set. Depending on the subject matter of the PDL, evidence would need to be presented in support of the desired order (e.g., best interests of the child for custody, support using form 14, spouses’ income for temporary maintenance).

Although parties to a divorce generally do not like resorting to a PDL (because it usually means a settlement is not near and things have gotten fractious), it is sometimes a necessity to inject definite guidelines in what are often tumultuous circumstances.

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