Virginia Divorce: Pendente Lite Spousal Support

Divorce is an expensive process. In addition to filing fees and attorneys’ fees, at least one party to a divorce is likely going to have to start paying rent for a new place to live. This transitional process can be hard on people who have become financially dependent on one another. 

Pendente lite support, or temporary support, is how Virginia attempts to allow the parties to pay for a lawyer or maintain their standard of living. What is pendente lite support, and how is it determined?

Basics of Pendente Lite Spousal Support

In Virginia, pendente lite support is discretionary. However, most judges in Virginia defer to a set of guidelines. 

When a court applies these guidelines, pendente lite support is calculated based upon the gross income of the parties. This means that the court will look at all of the income the parties have available and the needs of the parties while awaiting trial. Income, for spousal support purposes, can include anything from charitable gifts from friends and family or even public benefits such as TANF or food stamps. (Unlike in child support cases.)

The court will often require the parties to produce pay stubs, tax returns, and other documentation to determine financial positions.

Once the court obtains this information, the court will then decide how to proceed. Generally speaking, however, the court will take a specific percentage of the payor’s income and a percentage of the payee’s income. The difference between those amounts is the amount of temporary support that will be paid.

What if I can't afford the amount the court calculates?

The amount of spousal that this calculation produces is simply the presumed amount of support in some Virginia courts. Courts are allowed to go up or down from this amount depending on each party's financial needs. For example; if the payor spouse has a significant amount of debt, and the guideline calculations would put them out of house and home, the court may reduce spousal support.

What does this mean for my divorce?

This is simply a temporary amount that the court uses to make sure both parties can maintain their standard of living until the court has had time to resolve the case. The amount of temporary support the court orders may not be the same as how much you would pay once the divorce is finalized. It is important to keep this in mind if you are dealing with a motion for temporary support, and to negotiate appropriately.

Why you need a lawyer.

A lawyer is essential in pendente lite support proceedings because your lawyer can help make sure you have all of the necessary financial information form both parties to ensure a fair calculation. An attorney can also explore various defenses you may have to that amount, and advocate on your behalf to reduce that amount. If faced with divorce proceedings, make sure you hire a lawyer.