Obtaining spousal support – usually called alimony – is not easy in most California divorce cases. If you need to receive alimony payments, or if you feel that you are unfairly being ordered to make alimony payments, discuss the situation with an Orange County divorce lawyer.
A spousal support dispute can be costly, lengthy, and quite stressful. Spouses who have been ordered by the court to pay spousal support typically want to pay less – or nothing – while the spouses who receive spousal support payments often think they should receive more.
In what circumstances is spousal support ordered after a California divorce? How is the amount of spousal support determined? And how can you change a spousal support order after it has been issued by the court?
Whether you are seeking spousal support, receiving it, paying it, or expect to pay it, keep reading. You will learn how spousal support amounts are determined in this state, and you’ll also learn more about your rights during and after a divorce in California.
TEMPORARY ALIMONY VS. PERMANENT ALIMONY
Temporary spousal support is ordered during some divorce cases. When a California court orders temporary spousal support payments, the court sets a specific end date.
Permanent spousal support payments may end as well, but for the payments to cease, the court must approve a modification of the original spousal support order. When divorcing spouses can’t agree on alimony, the court decides what sum will be paid and the appropriate payment method.
The court takes a number of factors into account when it considers a request for permanent spousal support. In southern California, you will need the advice and insights of an Orange County divorce lawyer who has substantial experience handling spousal support disputes.
HOW DOES TEMPORARY SPOUSAL SUPPORT WORK?
In some California divorces, one spouse may request temporary support until the divorce is finalized. Before finalizing the divorce or rendering any final decision regarding permanent spousal support payments, the court may grant or reject a bid for temporary support payments.
If you are divorcing in California, if you need temporary spousal support payments or if you need to challenge a spouse’s request for temporary support payments, let your divorce lawyer know as early as possible.
HOW TEMPORARY IS TEMPORARY SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
Temporary spousal support is genuinely temporary, so a court may not require a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the couple’s assets, debts, and properties before approving (or rejecting) a temporary spousal support request.
Instead, most California courts will use a computerized, standard formula that determines the temporary spousal support amount. Basic data regarding income and taxes is considered when the temporary spousal support amount is calculated.
California judges may consider other factors and may adjust the spousal support amount calculated by a computer program, but neither spouse should expect the court to disregard the computerized formula unless the court has a good reason.
HOW DOES PERMANENT SPOUSAL SUPPORT WORK?
What factors will a California court take into account when determining the appropriate amount of permanent spousal support? Each spouse’s financial history, current financial condition, assets, income, and debts will be closely scrutinized by the court.
The party who initiates a divorce is required to submit a disclosure statement when divorce papers are filed or in the next sixty days. On being served with divorce papers, the other spouse must submit a disclosure statement with his or her response or in the subsequent sixty days.
Have your divorce attorney help you prepare and submit your financial disclosure statement and any other required paperwork, because any failure to disclose an asset, a property, or a source of income in a divorce proceeding can result in harsh legal penalties.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN PERMANENT SPOUSAL SUPPORT IS SOUGHT?
When divorcing spouses can come to their own agreement regarding permanent spousal support payments, a California court will in most cases accept that agreement.
But when spousal support is a disputed matter in a divorce, the judge will make a binding decision after considering:
1. the length of the marriage
2. the needs of each party based on their living standard during the marriage
3. each party’s earnings and earning capacity
4. the health and ages of each party
5. if one party significantly assisted the other with an education and/or career
6. if domestic violence occurred
7. if one party’s career was sacrificed to be a parent and/or homemaker
8. the effect of spousal support one each party’s taxes
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE TEN-YEAR RULE?
The “ten-year rule” in California divorce law is well-known. After a marriage that lasts for ten or more years, spousal support payments are considered permanent and the judge may or may not set an end date.
Judges try to determine what each party can earn to maintain the living standard they enjoyed during their marriage or partnership. To make this determination, a judge may consider the:
1. marketable skills of the parties
2. current employment market for their skills
3. cost and time that will be required for one party to develop marketable skills
4. extent of one party’s sacrifice to be a parent and/or homemaker
HOW CAN COURT-ORDERED PERMANENT SPOUSAL SUPPORT BE CHANGED?
When a divorced spouse’s circumstances change in the years after a divorce, either party may ask the court to modify the court order regarding spousal support payments. A southern California divorce lawyer can file your request for a modification of that court order.
Spousal support is a complex area of the law. When you request the modification of a spousal support order, the court will take a close look at a spouse’s need for spousal support, the other spouse’s ability to make payments, and the length of time since the divorce was granted.
WHEN IS A DIVORCE TRIAL NECESSARY?
When divorcing couples can agree on the issues that trigger most divorce disputes – spousal support, child custody, child support, and the division and distribution of their marital assets – they can save time, avoid trouble, and move the proceeding to a reasonably quick conclusion.
But when disputes over matters like spousal support cannot be voluntarily resolved or mediated, a divorce trial may be the final option, and a judge will make the final decisions.
It is imperative to think clearly, stay focused, and know what to expect from the beginning of the divorce process. It is also imperative to have the right divorce attorney advocating on your behalf from the start.