Spousal Support (Alimony)

Spousal support (alimony) is the money you pay your former spouse for their maintenance and support.  Spousal support applies to both married people and registered domestic partners (RDP’s) and may apply as soon as the couple starts living separate and apart.

How much spousal support/alimony will I have to pay my former spouse/RDP?

This depends on if you are paying temporary spousal support (alimony) or permanent spousal support (alimony).  Temporary spousal support (alimony) is the amount of support paid while your case is pending.  Permanent spousal support (alimony) is the amount of support that is paid after your case is completed and/or after the trial.

Temporary spousal support (alimony) is often determined using a formulaic calculation generated the same computer program used to calculate child support.

Permanent spousal support (alimony) is determined by analyzing the following factors:

  • The earning capacity of each party and whether that is sufficient to maintain the marital standard of living;
  • The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party;
  • The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support;
  • The needs of each party based on their marital standard of living;
  • The obligations and assets of each party, including separate property;
  • The duration of marriage;
  • The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children;
  • The age and health of the parties;
  • Documented evidence (including a plea of no contest/nolo contendere) of domestic violence;
  • The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party;
  • The balance of hardship to each party;
  • The goal that the supported party shall be self-sufficient within a reasonable amount of time;
  • The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse; and
  • Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

To determine the approximate amount of spousal support you will be required to pay or you are entitled to receive, call our office to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

How long will I have to pay spousal support (alimony)?

Unless there is intervening reason (see below) to terminate spousal support earlier, the amount of time you have to pay spousal support depends on the length of marriage.

In California, it is presumed that if you are married for less than 10 years, you have a “short-term” marriage and that spousal support should be paid for one-half the term of the marriage.  For example, if you are married for 8 years, then spousal support should be paid for 4 years.

If you are married for more than 10 years, then you have a “long term” marriage, and unless there is an intervening reason to terminate spousal support earlier (see below), the court cannot terminate its jurisdiction over alimony.

Just because you have a long term marriage, however, does not mean that you will have to pay spousal support forever.  There are specific ways that you can terminate your spousal support obligation earlier.   If you would like to discuss these options, call our office to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Are there any situations where my spousal support (alimony) obligation will automatically terminate?

Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, your obligation to pay spousal support will automatically terminate when the receiving party marries, either party dies, or you have a specific end date to your spousal support obligation.

In addition to these automatic terminating events, you should consult your attorney if the receiving party starts living with a significant other, your income has changed, the receiving party’s income has changed, or if there have been any significant changes since the previous spousal support  order was made.

What if I lose my job?

If you lose your job, you can request that spousal support be reduced.  In order to modify your support, you must file a request for a modification with the court as soon as you lose your job.  The court’s ability to modify your support can be limited if you fail to follow the appropriate steps.  Contact us to discuss these steps.

What if the receiving party starts making more money?

If the receiving party starts making more money, you can request that spousal support be modified, reduced, and/or terminated.  The amount that can be reduced depends on several factors.  If you want to modify your support you have to file your request with the court.  Contact us to discuss these steps.

What happens if I retire?

Your retirement can be a cause to terminate your obligation to pay spousal support (alimony).  The other factors that the courts will consider on whether your retirement can terminate spousal support are your age and your income (passive, investment, etc.).  If you would like to terminate your spousal support (alimony) obligation due to your retirement, you must file a request with the court.  Contact us to discuss these steps.

Do I have to pay taxes on this money?

Generally, spousal support is tax deductible to the payor and taxable income to the recipient or payee.  However, in order to claim this as a deduction, the spousal support must be an order of the court (it can either be a court order or stipulation that is filed with the court).

Call our office at (949) 391-3118 to speak with an experienced divorce attorney about your spousal support questions.

 

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