Spousal Support/Alimony

How to Determine Spousal Support in California

Spousal support, commonly known as alimony, is meant to help the parties maintain the status quo during the pendency of the divorce. It also enables the parties to eventually support themselves. In California, alimony is a cash payment to be paid by one spouse or domestic partner to the other during or following legal separation or divorce. Alimony is usually paid monthly or on the 1st and 15th of each month. Additional alimony from bonus or commission income is sometimes paid quarterly or annually.

Upon request, the lower-earning spouse in a relationship may receive alimony to help maintain the status of living the parties enjoyed during their marriage. However, depending on the circumstances of each case, alimony in California isn’t guaranteed. The income and separate property assets of both parties can be considered in making support orders. For instance, an “unemployed” party with $2 million cash in the bank does not necessarily need alimony.

Every divorce or separation case is different and will be defined by the people involved and their unique family needs. The couple’s finances and their circumstances will create a framework the courts will use to decide what is most equitable for the parties. The outcome may cause one or both parties considerable stress, and emotions typically run high as a result. Having supportive family lawyers to answer questions and advocate for your interests can make a world of difference.

California Spousal Support Guidelines

There are two types of spousal support outlined in the California Family Code: temporary and permanent (long term). During the divorce proceedings, a spouse may receive temporary spousal support until the divorce is finalized, at which time permanent or long-term spousal support is awarded.

Temporary spousal support is ordered during the pendency of the divorce, or from the date of filing until the date Judgment of Dissolution is entered. Temporary spousal support is not automatically ordered; the requesting spouse must file a Request for Order for support.

Alternatively, the parties can agree on temporary spousal support by written agreement. Temporary spousal support is set based on the statutory “guideline” calculation used to set child support. Courts and attorneys use a software program to set the amount of support, based mostly upon net spendable income. In theory, the amount of support ordered should enable the supported spouse to maintain the marital standard of living while the divorce is ongoing.

Long-term or permanent spousal support is usually ordered after trial or once the parties reach a final agreement on all issues in their dissolution case. Permanent spousal support cannot be set by a software program. Instead, the court will consider 14 factors enumerated in Family Code §4320. Spousal support isn’t usually “permanent,” but the duration of the support order will depend on whether the marriage was a short or long-term marriage (10 years or more).

At Johnson Attorneys Group, our family law clients typically want to know how much spousal support they will pay or receive as well as how long this support is required. In these cases, the individual circumstances of the parties are considered by the court.

Factors Considered When Determining Spousal Support in California

Some factors that may be considered in determining permanent spousal support include:

  • Length of the marriage;
  • The parties’ marital standard of living;
  • What the supporting party will need to maintain the marital standard of living;
  • Earning capacity of the parties;
  • The impact that working would have on raising children;
  • Age and health of both spouses;
  • Debt and other financial obligations;
  • How much one spouse supported or contributed to other’s education, training, career or professional license; and
  • Domestic violence perpetrated by either party.

The spouse with the higher income will typically be required to make regular payments to the spouse with the lower income. The law protects the lower-earning spouse by helping to provide them with a standard of living like that they were accustomed to while married.

Divorces involving couples with high-net-worth can be complicated when there are businesses involved or executives with complex financial packages. In the case of a business-owner spouse, the parties may rely upon forensic accountants to determine the amount of income available for support. Bonus or commission income can be factored into temporary and permanent spousal support by preparing a bonus or commission table. Setting support is generally more straightforward for salaried employees.

In some cases, the parties may agree to waive spousal support altogether.

Spousal support generally terminates upon:

  • The court’s order;
  • The death of either party; or
  • Supported party’s remarriage.

These are just a few reasons why support terminates. The amount and duration of alimony can vary greatly based upon parties’ agreements. The end of spousal support payments can depend on any “terminating event” the parties choose, or the court orders.

Contact the Los Angeles County and Orange County Family Lawyers at Johnson Attorneys Group Today

Whether you are paying or receiving alimony in California, it is important to have an experienced and skilled family lawyer who can ensure that your settlement is fair. The lawyers at Johnson Attorneys Group are located in Newport Beach and Los Angeles, serving the Los Angeles County and Orange County communities. Our attorneys have the experience you need for family law issues related to spousal support, child custody/support, visitation, high-net-worth divorce, property division, and more. Call (949) 942-8784 to request a private consultation with an experienced alimony lawyer.

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