Even when spouses are in agreement and neither contests their divorce, receiving a final decree can take months. Courts will not allow children to go so long without financial support from both parents. However, a child support order is not automatically established the moment a parent files for divorce. Typically, you must petition the court for a “pendente lite” order providing for it. Such an order remains in effect until the divorce is final.
Initiate your divorce action by filing either a petition or complaint for divorce, whichever is applicable in your state. Although you don’t have to file for divorce to get a child support order, it’s usually simplest to consolidate your temporary order with the divorce action if you’re going to divorce anyway.
Visit your courthouse, or go online to your state’s website, to get the forms and documents you'll need. Alternatively, you can obtain these forms from a legal website. Just make sure the forms you select are applicable to your particular state.
Access your state’s financial affidavit form. Different states identify these forms by different names. For example, in New Jersey, they're known as “case information statements” while New York calls them “statements of net worth.” A court can’t decide issues of child support unless the judge knows exactly how much you and your spouse earn. Thus, these forms are required for all pendente lite issues involving money. Many states requires the completion of a child support worksheet. This document helps you calculate how much child support you’re entitled to.
Download a motion packet or ask the court clerk for one. In most states, motion paperwork is comprised of two parts: the actual notice of motion and a corresponding affidavit. In the motion, you will explain to the court how your children require child support while your divorce is pending. In the affidavit, you will give the court a written explanation of your financial situation. Complete your financial affidavit, child support worksheet, or both, and attach them to your affidavit as exhibits.
File your motion with the same court where you filed for divorce. Typically, you are required to serve your spouse with a copy of the paperwork at the same time you file it with the appropriate court. A judge usually can’t issue a child support order without the other parent knowing about it. The procedure for service of divorce motions varies from state to state. In some jurisdictions, you can do it by certified mail. In others, you must use a sheriff or a private process server. Ask the court clerk at the time you file your motion about the law in your particular state.
Appear in court on the appointed day and time. Some states allow you to select your own court date when you file your motion, but strict rules apply as to how many days you must give your spouse to respond before the hearing. If the date you select is too soon, the clerk will usually change it to fit the appropriate time frame. In other jurisdictions, the court will assign a date for you. In either case, you will likely appear before a judge who will ask you and your spouse questions regarding your financial statements. Your child support order may become effective on that date; however, some jurisdictions make these orders retroactive to the date you filed your motion.
Some states, such as Oklahoma, allow you to file for a temporary child support order at the same time you file your divorce petition. Check with an attorney or your state’s bar association to find out if you can do this in your jurisdiction.
- Oklahoma Bar Association: Is Divorce the Answer for You?
- Clark County Courts: Temporary Orders
- Romanowski Law Offices: Preparation of Pendente Lite Applications – Part Two
- Law Office of J. Douglas Barics: Motions in New York Divorce Actions
- Women Against Domestic Violence: Child Support and Child Custody