Determining Alimony Pendente Lite

The fault of either party in causing the breakup of the marriage is not considered nor are the relative contributions of the parties to the marriage evaluated at this stage of the proceedings.  The evaluation is simply:  need and ability to pay.

Each party is required to submit a detailed financial statement showing his or her monthly income and deductions and itemizing by category the average monthly living expenses.  This provides the judge with a picture of each party’s current financial situation.  Of course, the opposing attorneys will usually require each party to provide supporting documents (like copies of bills, earnings statements and bank statements) to verify the income and expenses listed in the financial statement.

Unlike child support in which a table or guidelines determines the amount of support required based on factors like the parents’ income, health insurance costs and work-related daycare expenses, alimony pendente lite is usually left to the discretion of the judge or magistrate hearing the case.  Whether $200 or $800 per month for groceries is reasonable is determined by the judge or magistrate.  In determining the amount of child support required, the parties’ living expenses are irrelevant.  As a parent you cannot argue that you cannot afford to support your children because my bills are too high.  As I will discuss later, the state’s child support guidelines are determined by statute and are based on the economic costs of raising children in that state.

Whether a judge awards a parent contribution towards the mortgage and other expenses for the family home is also left to the judge’s discretion.  If the court awards a parent the use of the family home for the benefit of a minor child, it then decides the amount of contribution required from the non-custodial parent.  There is no table or guideline to determine an appropriate amount of the financial contribution.  Again, the judge decides whether to award any contribution to the household expenses by determining the parties’ need and ability to pay (after considering the impact of child support on both parents).

In conclusion, whether a judge awards alimony pendente lite and how much pending the final divorce is determined by only two factors: (1) the monthly financial need of the party seeking support; and (2) the ability of the other party to pay support. Unlike child support, there is no guideline or table for determining alimony pendente lite and the decision is left to the judge’s discretion.  Although pendente lite support is temporary until the date of the final divorce hearing, the decision is important because it creates a status quo that usually influences the court at the final divorce hearing.  It’s unlikely that a spouse will get alimony at the final divorce hearing if it was not awarded pendente lite.