What can I ask a Long Island Divorce Court to order while the divorce is ongoing?
Most people are accustomed to certain legal rituals. They are familiar with the Miranda warning, even though they might not recognize its origins. They know the basics of how a trial works and they are accustomed to a trial ending with either a verdict or some kind of order.
Almost all of the public’s beliefs about litigation come from television, naturally, as the courtroom has been the setting for many of America’s most influential and well-known dramatic scenes including everything from Atticus Finch and John T. Scopes to the People’s Court.
What many people do not have as much experience with is the concept of a court order that takes place during a trial, but does not necessarily adjudicate or conclude litigation with finality. In legal circles, the motions that lead to these orders are called pendente lite.
Pendente lite is a Latin term which means “pending the litigation.” It describes an order issued by a court during the proceedings of an ongoing trial. Most such orders are temporary by needs, as the final ruling in the case usually subsumes any and all intents of and by the court to provide relief to one party or another, and to issue a ruling that covers the entire scope of the litigation at issue.
Such orders are not meant to settle a case. They are merely intended to provide temporary respite so the weightier matters can be adjudicated.
In a divorce proceeding or other family court case, pendente lite motions can be filed by an attorney to request a court rule on matters which require immediate attention, but may also be part of a final ruling. They are a part of what legal professionals refer to as “motion practice,” which is the process of filing motions, responding to motions and participating in any hearings which the court may schedule to hear oral arguments on the details of any motions in question.
There are many different requests an attorney can make with a pendente lite motion.
Many divorce cases, child custody disputes and even competency hearings can become elaborate and complex affairs with multiple rounds of litigation, numerous motions filed and frequent delays. Life being what it is, there’s no justification for any court expecting the parties and any affected persons in a case to simply wait quietly in the hall for months until a ruling is issued.
In situations like this a divorce attorney, for example, might file a motion for a pendente lite order to provide temporary custody arrangements for children. Such a request might petition the court to temporarily assign custody to a grandparent or other relative. In other cases, a temporary restraining order might be filed against a parent with a history of violence or tangles with law enforcement. Monetary relief in the form of a temporary child support order might also be the subject of such a petition.
Each of these examples are routine matters for many divorce lawyers, and some are even expected as a matter of course in cases with particularly intense disagreement over the welfare of minor children. These matters are frequently more complex in situations with multiple sets of parents, step-parents and other relatives, as everyone is free to retain their own counsel and argue on behalf of both themselves and the children involved.
Another very common motion filed in family courts like those in New York is the motion to appoint a guardian ad litem. The appointment of such an advocate is somewhat similar to the appointment of a trustee in a bankruptcy case. The mission of the guardian ad litem is to represent the best interests of the child. This happens sometimes in cases where either no relatives of children can be located or the parties in a divorce or other custody matter are so divided and so compromised by the dispute they are no longer capable of carrying out their responsibilities as parents or guardians of their minor children.
Guardians Ad Litem are generally attorneys and their involvement with the family is temporary. Their only purpose is to represent a child’s interests until such time as the court issues its ruling.
In some states, and occasionally in New York, the legislature proscribes matters like temporary support even if there is pending litigation regarding a final settlement of divorce. In such cases, one or the other party’s attorney will often file a motion for temporary support using any existing laws as the basis for their request. Since these motions are often matters of routine, lawyers sometimes draft these motions and file them along with their first day business so the court has the maximum amount of time to consider requests based on their urgency and precedence.
All manner of expenses can be ruled on under a pendente lite motion like this. Everything from health care to educational expenses to travel time can be awarded, provided there is some justification or basis in law upon which to base the award. Attorneys are generally well aware of the potential for acquiring such awards and will do what is necessary to secure them so a prolonged trial doesn’t result in one or the other party being left with their property and finances drained.
With all this said, motions like these are both complex and detailed. Filing the right requests at the right time and making certain all parties in a dispute receive justice and adequate attention during a long drawn-out trial are all skills that require an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.
Always avail yourself of such an advocate’s services if possible, as navigating family court is complicated and potentially expensive. Most attorney’s offer numerous options for free consultation and evaluation of a case and can offer advice on how a pendente lite motion might affect both the immediate situation and your overall prospects in the event of a trial. It is worth the extra time and care to find out what your practical options are and what you may be facing in terms of time and expense.