What Is “Interim Relief” In Pennsylvania Family Law?

“Interim Relief” in the legal field basically means “in the meantime.” While awaiting a final judgment from the court, parties may seek relief from the court on certain issues that are important and immediate. Depending on the complexity of a divorce case, sometimes interim relief is needed based on certain issues that have to be decided before a divorce is finalized through the courts. Read further to learn what types of interim relief may be sought in a divorce case.

Interim Relief in a divorce case: what can the Court do?

Exclusive possession

Often the parties dispute over who should live in the marital residence. While a divorce is pending, the court may award the right to reside in the marital residence to one or both parties. In granting this interim relief, the court will look to whether the spouse requesting exclusive possession in the marital residence currently has the children living with them, or if the marital residence is located within the school district where the children are currently attending school. Other considerations in granting this interim relief include the affordability of living in the marital residence, whether one of the spouses runs their business out of the home, or whether one of the spouse’s extended families lives in the area near the marital residence.

Preventing dissipation

“Dissipation” means the wasting or destruction of marital assets, usually decreasing their value in some way. Courts can prevent the dissipation of the marital estate as a form of interim relief “where it appears a party is about to leave the jurisdiction, remove property or to dispose of, alienate or encumber property, to defeat economic claims . . . ” 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 3505(a). The Court will issue an injunction, which is an equitable remedy to prevent dissipation while a divorce is being finalized. This relief can also come in the form of freezing accounts, payment of mortgage and/or other debts, and specific performance.

Partial distribution

During the pendency of a divorce, either party can request an order from the court that provides for an interim partial distribution or an assignment of marital property. 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 3505(f). This is done prior to equitable distribution by the court. Some of the factors that the Court will consider in ordering a partial distribution include the complexity and potential length of litigation, the types of assets involved in the case, and the needs of a particular client. Also, sometimes an interim order with respect to partial distribution is done on the basis of an urgency-as there is some time-pressing reason why the court must decide on the distribution of an asset before a divorce is finalized.

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