Virginia Divorce: What is Pendente Lite Relief?

Divorce is an expensive and emotional process. When one spouse files for divorce, it may result in animosity and, in some instances, danger. Virginia law allows you to request that the court enter an order requiring your spouse to do certain things while the divorce proceedings are pending. Common examples of this type of relief include sole possession of the marital home, no derogatory language, a no contact order, or preliminary support.

So what is pendente lite relief and how does it work?

When to File for Pendente Lite Relief

A request for pendente lite relief can only be filed after a suit for divorce, support or custody has been filed with the appropriate court and the other party has been served with the lawsuit. You cannot file for pendente lite relief prior to your spouse receiving service of process. Service of process is typically accomplished by having the local sheriff deliver a copy of the Complaint and Summons to your spouse.

What Can You Ask For?

Virginia law gives you a wide array of things you can ask for with pendente lite relief. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer because your spouse has denied you access to the bank accounts, a pendente lite order may require your spouse to open access to the bank accounts. If your spouse is abusive and you cannot afford to find a new place, the court has the power to require your spouse to move out of the marital home and grant you sole, exclusive use and possession. The court also has the power to enter a preliminary order deciding issues of custody and visitation.

How Long Does Pendente Lite Relief Last?

It generally depends on the court you are in. A pendente lite order is designed to protect the parties until the case has been fully resolved. However, the court has discretion to limit the length of any particular request or to modify its order during the pendency of the lawsuit.

Why You Need a Lawyer

A request for pendente lite relief requires a hearing on the merits of your case. A mini-trial will need to be held, witnesses must be produced, and the reasons for your requested relief must be provided to the court. Evidence and hearings are the most difficult part of the legal process, and a lawyer can help insure that you have provided the court with the appropriate types of evidence and documentation. Failure to hire a lawyer may result in your requests being denied or your evidence not being heard. Hire a lawyer to increase your chances of success.