Los Angeles Spousal Support Attorney

If you have questions with respect to spousal support, then you should speak with a reputable Los Angeles spousal support attorney.

Spousal Support Overview

After a separation, the court may order temporary spousal support to sustain the parties’ status quo as they progress through the divorce process. Conversely, the court can order permanent spousal support on the basis of the circumstances of each party. The court will take into consideration:

  • the standard of living enjoyed during the course of the marriage,
  • the respective requirements of each party, and
  • the ability to make payments.

While there exist 14 statutory factors the court is required to consider when putting in a permanent spousal support order, the choice to order spousal support, the amount, and the duration of the support, rests within the court’s purview.

In the days before the advent of the no-fault divorce, spousal support was directly connected to marital misconduct. In other words, spousal support was awarded by the state to punish a “guilty” spouse who allegedly breached the bonds of matrimony. In most states, no-fault divorce legislation has moved away from the concept of spousal support being a right. Even so, spousal support is normally the last piece of the financial puzzle to be decided upon during a divorce, after the child support and asset division has been accomplished.

Although some states have few time limitations on spousal support, some others make spousal support nearly impossible to get. The state of California falls somewhere near the midpoint of those two extremes.  While truly permanent spousal support is a possibility, it is not all that usual these days.

Factors the Court Takes Into Account When Determining Spousal Support

Pursuant to California Family Code §4320, the amount and duration of spousal support are factors that are determined by weighing the following:

  • Whether the spouse who is requesting the spousal support significantly contributed to the education, training, license or career position of the other;
  • Whether each spouse will be capable of maintaining the same standard of living established during the marriage, based on his or her earning capacity;
  • The separate property each spouse possesses;
  • The obligations and assets of each party;
  • How long the marriage endured;
  • The supporting party’s ability to make ordered spousal support payments, based on income, assets, standard of living and earning capacity;
  • Whether the spouse asking for the spousal support can work without significantly interfering with the interests of minor children in his or her custody;
  • The ages of both of the spouses;
  • The health of both of the spouses;
  • Consideration of emotional duress that resulted from domestic abuse;
  • Tax consequences to both spouses if any spousal support were to be awarded;
  • Hardships sustained by either spouse or both of the spouses;
  • Whether or not the spouse seeking spousal support could become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time (general one-half the length of the marriage), and
  • Other factors that the court may consider equitable.

Is There a Ten-Year Rule in the State of California?

Although the general public may believe that California has a “ten-year rule” that entitles a spouse in a marriage of at least ten years’ duration to get permanent spousal support, this is not the reality. A marriage that has lasted ten years or more is, nevertheless, an important milestone which can have an effect on whether the court can revisit the issue of spousal support at some point in the future.

Moreover, as a general rule, spousal support in California can indeed be imposed for half the length of a marriage that has lasted less than ten years. In marriages that lasted longer than ten years, the duration of the spousal support is not defined.  Instead, the burden is on the paying spouse to demonstrate to a court that spousal support becomes unnecessary at some time in the future. The court has a great deal of discretion regarding the duration of spousal support, but generally, the idea is that a receiving spouse is entitled to receive spousal support only for as long as it takes that spouse to become self-supporting.

While spousal support in California, which is awarded in a long-term marriage could be referred to as “permanent,” in reality it is extremely rare for a California judge to order authentically permanent support. If the receiving spouse claims an inability to work or become fully employed, this claim needs to be supported with evidence. Long-term spousal support orders will customarily reduce gradually over time, down to a rather nominal amount. In other words, while the court does not terminate spousal support on a predetermined date, they can indeed set a termination date which will take effect, unless the spouse on the receiving end of the support applies for an extension prior to that date.

Are Alimony and Spousal Support the Same Thing?

Spousal support and alimony are basically the same thing.  The term “alimony” has been phased out over the years and replaced with what is considered the more modern nomenclature, “spousal support.” There are states who also use the term “spousal maintenance.” In general, California uses the term “spousal support” to refer to payments made by one spouse to another in the wake of a divorce.

Spousal support payments can be made from a husband to a wife after the divorce, or from a wife to a husband. The general concept is that the spouse who is more financially fit will pay the other until the receiving spouse is able to be self-supporting and live in pretty much the same manner as they did while they were married. In a multitude of cases, one spouse may not have enough training for employment, or could have been out of the workforce for a substantial amount of time, making it hard for that spouse to secure a job and maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed while married without help.

Do All Divorces Include Spousal Support?

There is a common misconception with regards to whether one spouse in a divorce will always get spousal support. In actuality, since most divorces are not litigated in the courtroom, it is tough to determine just how frequently court-ordered spousal support is a part of a divorce. So long as the agreement between spouses meets all of the California legal requirements, the court will likely uphold the agreement—even if that agreement might include a waiver of support by the lower-earning spouse.

A few estimates place the number of divorcing spouses who actually get awarded spousal support at only 10-15 percent. In the state of California, short term support may be awarded while the divorce is in progress. This temporary spousal support is known as pendente lite support.

How is Temporary Spousal Support Calculated in the California Family Courts?

A formula is used to figure out a temporary spousal support payment in the state of California, after the needs of the requesting spouse and the ability of the paying spouse to pay are taken into account. As an example, in Santa Clara County, 50 percent of the income of the lower-earning spouse is deducted from 40 percent of the income of the higher earning spouse.

After that, adjustments for tax consequences and child support are factored into the equation.  Then the court can return what they believe to be an equitable amount of temporary spousal support. The marketable skills of the requesting spouse will be taken into account, along with the current job market for the spouse’s skill set. The court will additionally consider the potential time and expense the spouse requesting spousal support will need to acquire the necessary education or training to gain employment.

Some Interesting Facts Regarding California Spousal Support

The majority of people who may either get or be ordered to pay spousal support have numerous questions about California’s legislation on spousal support. Some of the facts connected to California Spousal Support include:

  • The paying spouse is entitled to retire at age 65 in the state of California, and cannot be obligated to work to carry on paying spousal support beyond that age. If a paying spouse is pushed into early retirement because of a health issue or other circumstance that is beyond his or her control, this might also result in an end to spousal support payments.
  • If the paying spouse gets a significant raise after the divorce, this raise cannot be retroactively considered for the purpose of awarding additional spousal support.
  • If the paying spouse has been impacted by a serious reduction in income, due to involuntary termination or a health issue, the amount of spousal support could be either lowered or terminated.
  • If the paying spouse operates his or her own enterprise, and the business earnings have significantly decreased, the amount of spousal support obligations can be reduced.
  • Unless the amount of spousal support paid carries an annual “cap,” then in certain cases, regular bonuses or overtime income may be factored into the amount of spousal support awarded.
  • If the receiving spouse gets awarded a substantial raise, the paying spouse might be able to legitimately have the amount of spousal support reduced, or even terminated.
  • If spousal support is being paid out to a recipient who appears to have no interest in ever becoming self-supporting, the paying spouse has the right to request that the court order a vocational assessment. Courts are also permitted to assign the receiving spouse a “fictional” income, in a case where it appears that spouse is purposely avoiding employment.
  • In the same vein, the receiving spouse could claim disability due to stress or depression, which prevents him or her from going back to work. While it could definitely be a valid disability, an Independent Medical Evaluation might be recommended in order to determine what kind of employment is available to the receiving spouse.
  • The amount of spousal support can be determined in part by the level of assets awarded to the spouse requesting the support.
  • Declaring bankruptcy is not likely to end up in the paying spouse having his or her spousal support obligations discharged.
  • Spousal support payments are customarily a tax deduction to the paying spouse, while the receiving spouse is required to pay taxes on the payments.
  • If a person who is receiving spousal support is residing with a new romantic partner, then the paying spouse may be able to petition the court to reduce or totally eliminate the spousal support payments.
  • If the receiving spouse remarries, the obligation to pay spousal support automatically terminates.  Nevertheless, the paying spouse might need to obtain an order that terminates wage assignments if there is such an order in place.
  • Barring a written agreement between the spouses which states that no changes in spousal support will be sought, either spouse has a right to ask for a modification or termination of spousal support payments because of a material change in circumstances.

Spousal support could very well be the heaviest financial burden a spouse can incur during a divorce. It is critical that both spouses be proactive to make certain that spousal support is fair and equitable. The best way to accomplish this is to discuss the issue with your California divorce attorney. It is your attorney’s job to make sure that you receive or pay a fair amount of spousal support, and your divorce attorney is the very best individual to look out for your rights and your future.

Speak to Los Angeles Spousal Support Attorney Today

Having a well informed Los Angeles divorce Attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist on your team will help you achieve a successful outcome in your matter. Whether you are the supporting or supported spouse, an experienced family law practitioner will zealously advocate your spousal support claims.

When a couple divorces, one spouse may be awarded spousal support by the court or through an agreement already in place between both spouses. Also known as alimony, this can be crucial to helping one spouse maintain a standard of living to which they have become accustomed. However, since spousal support is separate from the dividing up of marital property and is decided based on individual circumstances, financial support in these instances can vary widely. Because of this, it is vital a spouse who is seeking financial support hire the services of divorce attorneys who have experience handling these cases and getting maximum amounts of support for their clients.

Alimony vs. Child Support
When divorcing, it is important to remember that spousal support and child support are two very different entities. While spousal support is solely for the purpose of helping one spouse maintain their standard of living, child support is a separate matter handled by the court or through a mutually-agreed-to arrangement between both spouses. If child support payments are awarded, they are only used for minor children when they are in a custodial parent’s care.

Why Alimony is Awarded
As stated previously, alimony is awarded to a spouse so that they can continue to maintain their current standard of living once divorced. Since alimony amounts can vary, spouses should always maintain legal representation that knows how to get them the most money possible. For example, during court hearings or when in negotiations with the other spouse and their attorney, it may be important to show one spouse gave up a lucrative career or chose to stay home and raise children. If this is the case, the spouse will need time to get job training so they may return to the work force, which is why they will need a reasonable amount of alimony. To make sure you get the alimony you need to help you get back on your feet following your divorce, always turn to divorce attorneys you trust and who have track records of success with divorce cases.

Determining the Amount of Alimony
While most states have strict monetary guidelines for child support, spousal support can vary in terms of how much is awarded to a spouse, if it will be awarded at all, and for how long it will continue. While courts do have much discretion in this area, most generally rely on recommendations from the Uniform Marriage and divorce Act. By doing so, such factors as the age of the spouse, how long it will take them to gain training to become self-sufficient, their previous standard of living, length of the marriage, and one spouse’s ability to pay the other weigh heavily into the court’s decision. Since your financial future may depend on this ruling, always work with knowledgeable divorce attorneys who can gather together documents and other evidence to build a strong case for you to receive as much money as possible.

Failure to Receive Alimony Payments
Unlike child support payments that have wage garnishments and liens as methods of enforcement to ensure payments are made, no such enforcement procedures exist for alimony payments that are not made. While a spouse could be cited for contempt of court if alimony payments are not made, it may be harder to get the money you need and deserve. Thus, always hire a divorce attorney who has experience making spouses who owe alimony live up to the original agreement.

How Long Alimony is Paid
In most situations, alimony payments end when a spouse remarries. However, if a divorce decree does not specify a support termination date, it is conceivable the payments could be made to continue indefinitely. Also, while you would think alimony payments would end upon the recipient’s passing, this may not be the case. In situations where the spouse was elderly, sick, or unable to gain satisfactory employment, the court may order alimony payments continue to be paid to the person’s estate.

Since there are many variables involved in agreements concerning spousal support, never leave anything to chance or make assumptions along the way. Instead, put your trust in experienced family law attorneys who will fight hard for you each step of the way.

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