Initial Custody Hearings in Maryland and How They Relate to Custody Overall

Like any other court system, the state of Maryland has a series of hearings that must be held in order for a custody arrangement to be established. The first of these is a pendente lite hearing.

Angel Murphy
January 22, 2018

Pendente Lite Hearings

Like any other court system, the state of Maryland has a series of hearings that must be held in order for a custody arrangement to be established. The first of these is a pendente lite hearing. Pendente Lite is latin for “awaiting litigation” and is defined as temporary or intermediate relief that a Maryland Family Court grants to parents while their open divorce or custody case is still pending. These hearings are designed to establish and/or preserve the status quo of the parties, and resolve pertinent issues while waiting for a final trial.

 

When are Pendente Lite Hearings usually scheduled?

A pendente lite hearing is usually scheduled as the first official hearing where testimony is taken, and evidence is put on before a Maryland Family Court Judge or Magistrate. Pendente Lite hearings usually take place about 3-4 months after the filing of the initial complaint for divorce or custody; this will give the parties enough time to adapt and get accustomed to a feasible arrangement that could become long-term.

 

Why are Pendente Lite Hearings Held?

Pendente Lite hearings are usually held immediately following a separation of the parties which can be emotionally and financially chaotic for all parties involved. The Pendente Lite hearings are designed to give the parties some type of guidance on how to proceed with life now that they are separated, and parse through what issues still need to be resolved. The temporary arrangement that is put forth as a result of a Pendente Lite hearing is based on the best interest of the child. A Court may award temporary Pendente Lite relief to the parties on the issues of:

  • Custody (both legal and physical)
  • Access/visitation
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Use and Possession of the Marital Home
  • Attorney Fees
  • Health Insurance Coverage and Maintenance

 

How do Pendente Lite Hearings relate to an ultimate custody and property arrangement?

In most cases a Pendente Lite hearing’s outcome will be decided by a Circuit Court Magistrate who will rule on the foregoing issues and make recommendations to a Judge. Unless—and until—either party files exceptions to that ruling, the ruling will stay in effect until the final hearing on the merits of the original complaint is held. At that final Trial on the Merits of the case, a Judge usually rehears the case. Although the Pendente Lite findings are not binding on a Judge at the final hearing, if everything that was decided in the Pendente Lite hearing is still going well and the parties seem to have adapted to the parameters set forth, the final order may be similar to the Pendente Lite order.

About The Author
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Angel Murphy is the Founding Partner of The Murphy Law Firm, LLC. As a licensed Maryland attorney and passionate advocate, Angel takes a personal approach to lawyering by devising a creative legal strategy for each client and for each case. Angel enjoys helping her clients face and overcome ...

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