Pendente Lite Hearings, Magistrate’s Hearings, Evaluator Reports and Emergency Hearings: Terms to Know

Divorce and separation can be difficult and emotional experiences even when the decision to part ways is civil. The divorce process is challenging in itself, which is why understanding the legal terms that go with it can alleviate confusion and frustration among parties. Here, the team of Harford County divorce attorneys at Rodier Family Law define some common terms used in divorce and separation cases to help you better understand the divorce process as you go through it. 

Pendente Lite Hearings

Latin for ‘pending litigation’, pendente lite hearings refer to temporary relief the court can award to spouses while a divorce litigation is pending. These hearings tend to arise during divorce-related issues such as custody, child support, visitation, use and possession, and alimony. Pendente lite hearings may result in the establishment of temporary custody and financial responsibilities until both parties reach an agreement, and ensure that one party isn’t unfairly burdened with all responsibilities during litigation. Typically being scheduled 3-6 months after initially filing for divorce, these hearings offer a chance for emotions to settle before making final custody decisions for the family members involved. 

Pendente lite hearings are typically handled by the Family Law Magistrates.  Formerly known as Masters, Magistrate’s are appointed to hear pendente lite matters, receive uncontested divorce testimony, and handle preliminary matters such as Scheduling Conferences, in order to lighten the burden of family law hearings on the sitting Judges and enable parties to have preliminary family law matters heard more quickly that the Court may be able to accommodate scheduling the same before a Judge.  When a party does not agree with the recommendations of the Magistrate at the conclusion of a hearing, he or she has a right to appeal to the Circuit Court bench, by filing Exceptions. Note that Pendente lite matters may also from time to time be scheduled before a Judge.  

Before any pendente lite hearing, it is important that both parties have provided any required financial statements and have a detailed record of their separate finances, shared debts and future expenses for children involved such as schooling, food and transportation. During the hearing, it is essential to provide justification for your financial expenses in an effort to obtain, or be ordered to pay, the appropriate amount of support, to include child support and/or alimony. 

Evaluator’s Reports

Evaluator’s reports in divorce proceedings are typically oral reports given on the record before a Magistrate.  An Evaluator is an individual appointed by the court to perform a custody evaluation and can be requested by the judge or the parents. In these reports, an appointed mental health professional typically evaluates you, your co-parent and your children to make decisions about the best custody agreement for all parties involved. These reports are conducted when the parents are unable to mutually agree on a suitable custody agreement, and can also include interviews, observation, possible home visits and examination of previous legal proceedings. After the custody evaluation, if the parties are not able to reach an agreement as to the care and custody of their children, a report is provided by the Evaluator explaining his or her findings and potentially providing custody recommendations for the best interests of the children. 

Emergency Hearings

Emergency hearings during divorce can be held relating to a number of issues including, but not limited to, finances and property, child custody, and domestic violence. Financial decisions during divorce can be some of the most difficult to make, and if your spouse is not cooperating with their finances, an emergency hearing can be called. For example, if your spouse starts to sell joint property and belongings, you can request an emergency hearing to freeze certain accounts until temporary decisions have been ordered by the court. In the case of child custody or domestic violence, emergency hearings are needed to ensure the safety of you and your children during this arduous process. 

Discuss Divorce and Separation Concerns with the Attorneys at Rodier Family Law

The early stages of divorce can bring a whirlwind of emotions and financial strain. During this time, ensuring you understand the legal terminology associated with these proceedings can guarantee you are prepared and ready to make the best decision for you and your family. To speak with a qualified divorce and family law attorney, contact our Bel Air office today