What does pendente lite support mean in a divorce case?

By Simon Aziz Budhwani


Pendente Lite is Latin for “pending litigation.”  Pendente lite support is support that is ordered pending litigation.  The intent is usually that the support order will be revisited before the litigation is finished.  Pendente lite support orders are also called temporary support orders because they are meant to be in place temporarily (during the litigation) and replaced by different, final orders at the end of the case.  These pendente lite/temporary support orders can be for child support, spousal support, family support, or all of these.

Courts award pendente lite/temporary support to ensure the the lower earning spouse (or parent) is not without the basic necessities of life for themselves and their children.  In the days before Court’s awarded pendente lite/temporary support, it was common for one spouse (usually the homemaker wife) to be without necessities of life until the case was finalized.  Cases took months; if not years.  To resolve this issue, the California State Legislature wrote laws establishing temporary child and spousal support orders.  California Family Code §§ 3600-3604 govern temporary spousal support and child support. The family code indicates that in a divorce, legal separation, or in any case involving children, the court may order one spouse to pay support to the other while the case is ongoing.

Court generally calculate the amount of temporary and final/permanent child and support to be paid by using a mathematical formula.  The formulas for temporary and permanent support are slightly different, but they both consider the Parties’ income, the amount of time each party cares for the children, and whether the Parties pay any permissible income deductions (e.g., property take, health insurance, union dues, etc.).  In the old days, the calculations were done by hand.  Today, most California courts use one of two computer programs to calculate the support amounts, either XSpouse or Dissomaster.  Judges have some discretion to adjust the formula amount up or down for temporary child and spousal support, but most don’t.  That’s very different from the final/permanent spousal support order.  While Judges can look at the program’s calculation for permanent spousal support, Judges are also required to consider the amount of money the spouses earned during the marriage, the education and earning capacity of the parties, the length of the marriage, and whether one spouse committed domestic violence against the other. (California Family Code § 4320).

Whether temporary or permanent support, most people argue about the amount of income that goes into the calculation.  One spouse is capable of working, but refuses to get a job.  One parent may be receiving cash every month from their family that they are not reporting on their taxes.  One party might be running their personal expenses through their business.  Any of these scenarios could increase or decrease the amount of income put into the calculation.

This blog is not meant to provide legal advice. Every person and every case is different. You should speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances. The attorneys at Core Law Group utilize the same programs as the courts to estimate clients’ temporary and permanent support orders.  We provide these estimates as early as the initial consultation so our clients can have a clear financial picture regardless of whether they are paying or receiving support.  We provide our clients access to financial planning services that can help them strategize and play around support payments.  Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys