PDL stands for “pendente lite,” a Latin phrase that essentially means “temporary.” After an individual files a petition for dissolution of marriage or a legal separation, the household suddenly falls into a state of disarray or chaos. Each person has access to the marital home, joint bank accounts, property, and the children – or, in many situations, one person has prevented the other person from access to property or children. In either case, neither person trusts the other person and worries about his or her access to property and children. Because uncertainty only breeds more chaos, Missouri law allows one or both parties to ask the court for help – and enter the PDL.
A Motion PDL allows a party to create some stability pending the outcome of the dissolution or legal separation, which could take six to eighteen months on average. By filing a PDL, a party can ask the court for a temporary custody order (as to both legal custody and physical custody), a temporary Parenting Plan, an order giving one party and the children exclusive possession of the marital residence, a mutual “no harassment” order, and a mutual order prohibiting the disposition of any marital property without the consent of the other party, with the exception of certain living expenses. A party can also seek PDL an award of maintenance and child support.
The goal of the PDL is to maintain the status quo, to create some stability for the minor children in the midst of a very difficult situation, and to assure that a spouse with reduced or non-existent income has the ability to meet his or her reasonable needs and those of the minor children, but to do so without overburdening the spouse paying maintenance or support. In this manner, the two spouses can live in separate households and peacefully coexist without financial desperation and the minor children can have consistency, stability, and access to both parents.
In complicated divorces, a PDL may last for one or two years; as such, parties will put particular effort into assuring the court has an accurate picture of the status quo and each party’s needs or abilities to pay. The court will hold an evidentiary hearing and issue a Judgment PDL. It is important to note that though a PDL is for a temporary purpose and limited duration, it is nevertheless a final judgment. If one party feels the Judgment PDL is unfair, that party can appeal; if circumstances change before the hearing on the dissolution, a party may move to modify the Judgment PDL.
A Judgment PDL has no impact on the final dissolution judgment. The two judgments serve very different purposes. Indeed, if a court believes a party needs access to certain funds or property during the PDL period, it can order payment but expressly reserve the right to readjust assets at the time of dissolution. A temporary custody order is not meant to be the model for the final parenting plan.
Whether to seek a PDL motion and for what purposes, is a question only an experienced attorney can answer after examining your case.
Because of the presence of COVID-19, having a hearing will take different forms based on how well a courthouse has been doing with managing outbreaks. Currently, St. Louis County courts are at Phase Zero and holding no PDL hearings in person, only by Zoom. In St. Charles, however, judges are hearing PDL hearings in person under virus protocols.
If you have questions about a PDL motion, contact us – we can help.