When a couple gets divorced they typically separate, which usually involves one person moving out of the marital home. However, because divorce cases can take a year or more to resolve, the court can issue temporary orders for issues such as child custody and support, as well as the financial support of a former spouse. This article covers how these orders differ from final orders and how they can benefit the parties.
Temporary Orders for Spousal Support
Generally, courts must deal with issues concerning the financial support of a spouse after finalizing the divorce. When determining spousal support, California courts will assess the finances of each party, assess whether the party requesting support has a need for such support and whether the party from whom support is sought has the financial ability to provide it.
The financial needs of a party requesting spousal support are based on whether their financial condition allows them to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed right before the separation. However, a temporary order for spousal support serves a different purpose from final support orders.
In California, a court will issue a temporary spousal support order to help maintain the status quo during litigation. Sometimes this type of temporary order is called a “pendente lite” order—which is Latin for “pending litigation.”
Temporary Orders for Child Support
Like spousal support orders, an order for child support requires courts to look at the specific financial circumstances of the parties. Generally, all parents owe their children a legal duty to provide them with enough financial support to cover things like food, clothing, schooling, and medical care.
Unlike spousal support, this duty does not end when the marriage ends. That is because the parent-child relationship exists independently of a person’s marital status—you are still your child’s parent regardless of whether you are married and to whom.
The purpose of child support orders in a divorce case is to get a parent who does not live with their child to provide them with the same financial support as they otherwise would if they were still living together. Courts must calculate a parent’s child support obligation based on statutory guidelines in the California Family Code.
Temporary orders for child support fulfill a similar purpose to final child support orders. Both seem to focus on maintaining the pre-separation status quo to some degree and require the courts to adhere to the statutory guidelines of the Family Code. However, a temporary child support order typically depends on the custody arrangement pending resolution of the divorce.
Temporary Orders for Child Custody
In general, an order concerning the care and custody of minor children must be determined after considering the children’s best interests. When it comes to temporary orders for child custody, the court also has to focus on the child’s best interest. Temporary custody orders are often accompanied by an accompanying order for visitation by a noncustodial parent.
Like other temporary orders, a pendente lite temporary custody order is concerned with the pre-separation status quo. However, this purpose is subordinate to the child’s best interest. Thus, if the child was in a bad situation before the parties separated, a temporary child custody order will probably remove the child from that situation.
A temporary child custody order is also important because a divorce lawsuit cannot be dismissed because of a delay in prosecuting the matter to trial.
Although the ultimate custody arrangement may change when the court renders its final judgment for the divorce, the custody arrangement under a temporary order pending resolution of the divorce can be a significant consideration in determining a final order. The longer a temporary custody order has been in place, the more likely a court will issue a final custody order that continues the familiarity and stability of the temporary order.
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