A Closer Look at Alimony Pendente Lite: A Comparative Analysis and Insights from Guarino v. Guarino

Hourglass with pink sand on a newspaper, a metaphor for the time and patience needed in alimony negotiations, guided by a Baltimore County divorce lawyer through collaborative law

The Basics of Alimony Pendente Lite and Permanent Alimony

The term alimony pendente lite is a Latin phrase which translates to ‘pending the litigation’. This type of alimony is often awarded in the period between the filing of a divorce and its final resolution. Its primary purpose is to maintain the financial status quo of the parties involved until the final settlement is reached. By contrast, permanent alimony is awarded post-divorce to provide ongoing financial support to a spouse who may be economically disadvantaged or unable to support themselves sufficiently after the marriage ends.

A common thread between these two forms of alimony is the aim to prevent financial hardship to either party during and after the divorce process. However, the factors considered when awarding these two types of alimony differ greatly, leading to variations in the amounts awarded, the duration, and the conditions attached to the support. For Baltimore County divorce lawyers, understanding the difference between alimony pendente lite and permanent alimony is crucial in advising clients on what they can expect from their divorce proceedings.

The Legal and Evidentiary Standards

According to Md. Code, Fam. Law § 11-102, the decision to award alimony pendente lite is vested in the discretion of the court, based primarily on the need of the requesting party. The applicant for alimony pendente lite must demonstrate the existence of a marriage between the parties, the pendency of the divorce action, and their inability to support themselves financially during the course of the litigation.

On the other hand, the determination of permanent alimony hinges on a more extensive set of factors as laid out in Md. Code, Fam. Law § 11-106. These factors include the ability of each party to be self-supporting, the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to find employment, the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, and more.

Insights from Guarino v. Guarino

In the case of Guarino v. Guarino, 112 Md. App. 1 (1996), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals provided significant insight into the application of alimony pendente lite. The court stressed that the award of alimony pendente lite is made without an inquiry into the merits of the underlying divorce action, focusing primarily on the financial need of the party seeking alimony.

This ruling clarified a misconception stemming from the case of Maynard v. Maynard, 42 Md. App. 47 (1979), where the court had erroneously suggested that the granting of alimony pendente lite required a demonstration of “a probable cause of action with … reasonable probability of success of the applicant on the trial.” Guarino dismantled this misunderstanding, reaffirming that the main consideration for alimony pendente lite is the financial need of the requesting party, without a requirement to evaluate the merits of the divorce action itself.

The case also underscored that while alimony pendente lite may seem similar to permanent alimony in certain respects, the criteria applied in their determination are markedly different. The extent and complexity of factors considered in awarding permanent alimony simply cannot be developed during a preliminary hearing for alimony pendente lite. Hence, the consideration of financial need becomes the key determinant in pendente lite matters, with the broader factors reserved for the final decision on permanent alimony.


In sum, while both alimony pendente lite and permanent alimony serve to mitigate financial hardship during and after the divorce process, the two forms of alimony are distinct in their nature, purpose, and the legal standards applied. Alimony pendente lite is a temporary measure aimed at maintaining financial stability during the divorce proceedings, awarded based mainly on the demonstrated financial need of the requesting party. On the other hand, permanent alimony is a more comprehensive and lasting form of support, the determination of which considers a variety of factors related to the circumstances of the marriage, the parties’ financial standing, and their future prospects.

The landmark case of Guarino v. Guarino provides important insights into the legal and evidentiary standards applicable to alimony pendente lite, emphasizing the primary focus on financial need and the deliberate detachment from the merits of the underlying divorce action. It sheds light on how courts navigate the nuances of these two types of alimony, an understanding essential to attorneys practicing family law and individuals navigating divorce proceedings. As the case clarifies, the single most influential factor for alimony pendente lite is the financial necessity of the claimant, while a broad array of factors are considered in the determination of permanent alimony, taking into account a more holistic view of the marriage and its aftermath.

This distinction is crucial, especially when advising clients on what to anticipate during divorce proceedings. Accurate knowledge of the processes involved in alimony decisions helps clients form realistic expectations, reduces the potential for misunderstandings, and contributes to smoother, less contentious divorce proceedings.

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