The Advantage to Filing for Divorce on His Fault: The Pendente Lite Hearing

Very few divorces these days are actually granted on fault-based grounds. In most cases, even if a party initially files on a fault-based ground (such as adultery, cruelty, or desertion), they usually switch over and pursue a no-fault divorce by the end of the process. Why? Well, it takes less time, costs less money, and typically yields better results to enter into an agreement rather than fight it out in the court system. Additionally, you have a degree of control over what happens to you; in a litigated, fault-based divorce, you have to abide by whatever the judge rules, and that’s no fun.

Filing initially on fault can be useful, though. The major benefit of filing on fault first (if you have fault-based grounds), even if you have every intention of ultimately obtaining a no-fault divorce, is that you can get into court quickly and have a pendente lite hearing. A pendente lite hearing (or PL hearing) is a temporary support hearing.

The problem we often see is that, as soon as a husband and wife separate, husband cuts his wife off from all his money. The majority of the time, the husband is the major income-earner in the family, and, when he does that, the wife is left with little to no money to take care of her and the kids. Sure, the separation agreement will help her get access to the things she needs (like support and equitable distribution), but what is she supposed to do in the meantime?

At the PL hearing, the judge can award temporary spousal and child support, which is often desperately needed. It’s temporary because it only runs from the time of the hearing until the separation agreement or final decree of divorce takes over and you start to receive support based on what you agreed to. A PL hearing is the easiest and often the quickest way to receive support during the time after you separate until your divorce is finalized.

You can get support while you’re waiting even if you don’t file for a fault-based divorce, but you’ll have to go through the juvenile court to receive it. In Virginia, the juvenile and domestic relations court can hear cases for child and spousal support. This isn’t usually done, though, because it takes such a long time to get a case heard in juvenile court. Still, if you have a case that you’re afraid will drag out and you either don’t have fault based grounds or don’t have the money to retain an attorney on a “litigated” divorce, you may want to consider filing for support in juvenile court instead.

To get a few more pointers on things that you can do before your divorce, see also "Four Tips for Women Facing Divorce" to get started.

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