I have previously discussed dependent support allowances from each of the military services which includes spousal support. The military services that grant dependent support assume the spouse will require support (regardless of whether the spouse is working) – state courts do not make the same assumption concerning spousal support. In civilian family law courts, child support is usually separated from spousal support. While a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support, support for a spouse is not required. States have different requirements for deciding when and how much alimony or spousal support to award in a divorce case.
Temporary Alimony or Alimony Pendent Lite:
In places like Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, there are two different types of alimony the courts can award. Temporary alimony (or alimony pendente lite) is awarded so that each party can maintain the status quo (stay where they are) until the final divorce hearing. Divorce cases can take up to 18 months before a final judgment is awarded but many times parties cannot wait that long to get support. While the final divorce is pending, the court may award alimony pendente lite (meaning; pending final litigation of the case).
Divorces can take up to 18 months to become final because many states require the parties to be separated from each other for six -- or sometimes 12 months -- before you can file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. (In addition, most states require that at least one party live in the state for one year prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce). After a Complaint for Divorce is filed, divorce cases take several months before a final hearing. These cases require time for the parties to conduct discovery, attend court-ordered parenting classes and mediation, as well as scheduling and pre-trial settlement conferences before the case goes to trial.
Frequently, the parties have important issues that must be decided that cannot wait six or 12 or 18 months for a hearing. Interim issues like custody and access to the children, child support, spousal support and use of the marital home contribution to the mortgage as well as attorney’s fees often require a temporary resolution. A party can request interim hearing called pendente lite hearing to resolve these interim issues until the court can hear the entire divorce case.