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In many types of lawsuits, a court many order temporary relief while the lawsuit is pending. In legal terms, temporary relief is often referred to as pendente lite, meaning "pending litigation." Common examples of when temporary relief may be appropriate include during a divorce action or when a temporary injunction is granted by a court.
Although the rules and procedures for a divorce action will vary by jurisdiction, in most legal systems, a petition for divorce must first be filed with the court in order to initiate the action. At the time of the filing of the petition, the petitioner may ask the court to order temporary relief regarding a number of the issues in the divorce action. Custody of minor children, child support, and possession of the marital property are common issues that the court may need to enter a temporary order on while the lawsuit is pending.
The temporary relief ordered in a divorce action is just that — temporary. Unlike other types of lawsuits, a divorce often involves issues that cannot wait until the termination of the lawsuit for a legal decision to be made. Clearly, someone must have custody of the children as well as possession of the marital property while the divorce is pending. For this reason, a court will make a temporary, or preliminary, decision regarding these issues so that the parties have some legal guidance while the divorce is pending.
In a divorce, the temporary orders will be reconsidered by the judge when the case terminates. In some cases, the temporary orders will become permanent without changes. In other cases, the judge will make changes to the temporary relief originally ordered when it enters its final orders regarding the divorce. The temporary orders may also change if the parties are able to reach a mutual agreement regarding the issues that becomes a part of the final decree.
Another situation where a court may enter temporary relief is when an injunction is sought by a petitioner. An injunction is a court order that orders a party to refrain from doing something or orders a party to do something. For example, a petitioner may file for an injunction when the demolition of a building is scheduled and the petitioner wishes to prevent the demolition on legal grounds. The court may enter a temporary injunction preventing the demolition of the building pending a hearing on the merits of the case. In this case, the temporary order is needed to prevent something from happening that cannot be undone when there is not time to wait for the usual legal process to take its course.