“How do I know when to ask for pendente lite alimony?”
Pendente lite means “pending litigation”, or, basically, before the trial starts. So what you are asking is whether you should ask for alimony before the court determines how much alimony you are actually entitled to or, indeed, whether you are entitled to alimony at all.
Pendente lite alimony is awarded at the Court’s discretion, and is typically used to help cover the cost of maintaining marital property, bills, etc., until a final award is ordered by the court.
However, and this is an important however, it often used to help fund the legal action itself. In other words, if the financial imbalance between the spouses is so great that one spouse can afford effective legal representation during the divorce, and the other spouse is unable to afford to retain an attorney, or to pay them, in order to protect their marital assets and rights, then the court may order the financially stronger spouse to pay alimony pendente lite to ensure that the financially weaker spouse has enough funds to see the divorce action through.
It is important to bear in mind, though, that if you get an order for pendente lite alimony, and in the end the Court determines that in fact you do not really need or are not entitled to alimony, the amount you received pendente lite could end up being deducted from any divorce settlement you receive and you could even end up owing your spouse money and having to pay it back.