Pendente lite is Latin for “awaiting the litigation” or “pending the litigation.” Pendente lite applies to court orders in effect while matters such as a divorce are still pending.
Pendente lite support is spousal support (more commonly referred to as alimony) that is paid to a spouse while a divorce case is still ongoing. A temporary order, if appropriate, may sometimes become a permanent part of the divorce decree. That means that a pendente lite motion must be carefully crafted by the spouse seeking support and aggressively opposed by the other spouse if that spouse believes its terms are unfair.
Alimony is frequently of the most contested issues in a divorce. It can be difficult for some couples to negotiate satisfactory agreements without experienced legal representation. If the spouses can’t agree, a court will have to step in and decide for them.
Are you seeking or being ordered to pay pendente lite support in the Memphis area? Do not hesitate to seek legal representation for assistance with every single step of the process.
Attorney Shannon A. Jones has more than two decades of experience handling spousal support and alimony issues as part of his family law practice. To protect your interests to the fullest, call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.
Tennessee Code § 36-5-121 addresses support for spouses, and Tennessee Code § 36-5-121(b) specifically deals with pendente lite support. Under this statute, the court can make any order compelling a spouse to pay necessary support and maintenance of the other spouse at any time leading up to the final hearing.
The statute also allows a court to award money necessary to enable a spouse to pay the expenses of job training and education. The court must consider the financial needs of both spouses as well as each spouse’s financial ability to prosecute or defend the suit.
Pendente lite support cannot be granted after a principal action is dismissed, but it can be awarded while an appeal is pending. In Wade v. Wade, 897 S.W.2d 702, 719 (1994), the Eastern Section of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee noted that Rule 62.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure gives the court discretion to grant whatever additional or modified relief is deemed appropriate during the pendency of an appeal.
Pendente lite support issues can also complicate property division matters. The Eastern Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in Brock v. Brock, 941 S.W.2d 896, 903 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996) that $176,000 a husband paid his wife to defray her living expenses and fund her graduate art studies in New York City were spousal support pendente lite payments not to be treated as a part of the marital estate to be divided by the court. Similarly, the appellate court stated in Scarbrough v. Scarbrough, No. W1998-00167-COA-R3-CV, 1997 WL 1567097, at *14 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 14, 1999) that “pendente lite awards are not deducted from permanent alimony awards.”
Re: Estate of George H. Steil, II, No. M2011-00701-COA-R3-CV,2012 WL 1794979, 2012 Tenn. App. LEXIS 315, at *21-22 (Tenn. Ct. App., May 16, 2012) was a case in which the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville ruled that an interim temporary support obligation does not survive the final order unless it is incorporated into the final order. The wife relied upon an Agreed Interim Order providing the husband would pay her $500 a month in spousal support for a period of three years and the nature of the alimony was in solido, meaning a fixed amount that does not decrease upon the death of the obligor.
The executrix (female executor of the will) of the husband’s estate contended that the Agreed Interim Order was overridden by the Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) that included the $500 a month provision but stipulated that such payments would end upon the remarriage of the wife and made no mention of three years or any other time limitation. The court reversed the trial court’s alimony award after concluding the MDA established the award and provided for alimony in futuro (periodic alimony going forward).
In Sellers v. Sellers, 221 S.W. 3d 43, 47 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006), the appellate court cited Davenport v. Davenport, 178 Tenn. 517, 160 S.W.2d 406 (Tenn.1942) in holding that a trial court has no authority to order a husband to pay alimony in the future, as the rule in Tennessee is that when a divorce decree does not award alimony, it cannot be awarded later unless a later right to alimony is afforded by statute.
Similarly, the appeals court also cited Davenportin Robinette v. Robinette, 726 S.W.2d 524 at 525 before noting that the “general and near-universal exception to this rule is that alimony may be awarded after a decree of absolute divorce has become final where the right is afforded by statute or reserved in the divorce decree.”
Pendente lite support can easily become a very thorny issue for many spouses to work out by themselves. Often, the spouse who is being asked to pay will feel they are paying too much, while the spouse receiving support will feel they are not getting enough. Both spouses can have their compelling arguments, which can make decisions very difficult for courts to render. Even minor mistakes in these cases could end up having a major impact on the outcome. Moreover, higher courts seldom overrule a determination made by a trial court in a divorce case.
This is another reason why you need a lawyer to assist you during any pendente lite support proceedings. A skilled family law attorney knows how to present the evidence that is most favorable to your case.
Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, will work to help you achieve a pendente lite support agreement that meets all of your needs and allows you to move on with your life. He will make it his primary responsibility to make sure you aren’t locked into an adverse court ruling about temporary support that could become a permanent fixture in your life moving forward.
If you and your spouse are engaged in a dispute about temporary alimony in Tennessee, you must not underestimate the importance of having legal counsel as a problem solver. You can enter court with a lot more confidence when you have seasoned Memphis divorce lawyer Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, on your side.
Our compassionate team understands how emotional these kinds of issues can be, and we can help take the burden off your shoulders. Our attorneys will provide a thorough consultation to discuss your legal options when you call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online.