Avoid Open Ended Pendente Lite or Preliminary Conference Stipulations

Mace Greenfield Support Issues

Lately I have subbed into too many divorce cases where the pendent lite (or preliminary conference) stipulation required the moneyed spouse to either: pay all charge card bills, or pay a percent of all expenses as listed therein, instead of paying a specific amount of child support and or spousal support each month.  The problem is that even when the stipulation states reasonable or in accordance with past spending, the other spouse almost always over spends and the Court’s just do not care when requested to intercede and limit the money bleeding.

If you are going to agree to pay specific expenses, you must include a dollar limit to each expense.  If you agree to pay credit card charges, you must include a monthly limit.  It is best to just calculate the proper amount of child support and or spousal maintenance to be paid each month and pay that.  Then there can be no argument.  (Oh heck, this is a divorce, of course there will still be arguments, but at least you will not be facing a huge increase in spending that you are responsible for and/or a contempt motion.)  You will avoid the other spouse leaving the heat or air conditioning or both being left on high all day just to bleed you dry.  You avoid huge amounts of larger sized clothes being bought for the children (to last long after the divorce ends) and their being signed up for extra activities that you have to pay for.  You avoid enough dry goods being purchased by the other spouse from food stores to last them long after the divorce is over.  Yes, I have seen all this and more.

In all written documents, the law implies reasonability even if the stipulation you signed did not include that word.  But the Courts do not want to be bothered.  You can make motions to limit the spending to a reasonable amount, but usually the Court will not.  You can seek contempt that the spending far exceeds the prior status quo, but the Court will most likely not want to deal with it and dismiss it. Shame on the Courts that respond this way as it causes the horror of divorce to be worse, empowers one spouse over the other to drag it out longer, and to be less reasonable.

You can best limit your loses by only agreeing to pay fixed charges such as the mortgage, home owners insurance and property taxes, and otherwise, it is best to set a specific dollar amount to be paid each month for spousal support and child support and let the other spouse pay all of the bills and expenses.