An Overview on Spousal Support
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a form of payment that is received from one spouse to another after an order has been made in a separation or a dissolution (divorce) case. These forms of payments are meant to support the disadvantaged spouse in an economic way so that he or she may experience a comparable standard of living as he or she enjoyed while in the marriage. In most cases, the spouse who earns higher wages is ordered by the court to pay spousal/partner support to his or her former partner.
If you believe you are entitled to receive spousal support or if you believe that you might be responsible to pay out spousal support, or you are seeking to modify a current support order, a qualified family law attorney can represent your best interests in court so that you receive an impartial and fair order regarding support.
The Purpose of Spousal Support
It is important to understand that spousal support is not guaranteed nor is it an absolute right. Spousal support is not intended to discipline nor penalize a spouse for any misbehavior that occurred during the marriage. It is also not intended to serve as a consolation prize or reward for having endured any maltreatment that might have occurred throughout the marriage. The sole purpose for the ability to obtain spousal support is so that all parties can maintain the same standard of living as they did prior to the divorce or separation, and in many cases only while they move towards becoming self-supportive.
It is also equally important to consider that there is a great amount of judicial discretion in the state of California. With this in mind, it is vital to have a broad sense of what influences and factors could affect the judicial order of support.
Two Forms of Spousal Support
The state of California has two general types of spousal support. These are briefly described below:
- Temporary Spousal Support
- This form of spousal support is commonly referred to as pendente lite, which means pending the litigation.
- The Court may order pendente lite spousal support without regard to the merit or procedural posture of the case.
- In granting temporary spousal support the Court is not bound by the factors required for permanent support, such as the parties’ earning capacity, ability to pay, needs based on the standard of living, obligations and hardships, etc. Typically, the Court will rely on “guideline” support, which is a calculation based on the parties’ respective incomes. However, the Court has the discretion to consider any relevant factors in making the determination including the factors necessary for permanent support.
- Permanent Spousal Support
- Permanent spousal support can only be ordered as a form of a final judgment (e.g. when the divorce has concluded).
- For an order of permanent spousal support, the Court is required to make specific findings regarding enumerated factors identified in the California Family Code section 4320 which includes the parties’ earning capacity, ability to pay, needs based on the standard of living, obligations and hardships.
- In this form of spousal support, support is granted for a determinate amount of time which typically considers the length of the marriage, such as whether the marriage was of “long duration” (presumptively 10 years or more). For instance, if the marriage was not of long duration, the Court may order spousal support for half the term of the marriage. On the contrary, if the marriage was of long duration, the Court may order spousal support until the death of either party, until the supported spouse remarries, or further court order.
- Even if the Court makes an order of permanent spousal support, it is vital to understand that the change in the parties’ circumstances, such as earning ability and obligations, can change the amount of support that is ordered.
Seeking Professional Assistance
A marital separation can have devastating implications for all members of a family. One of the most prominent implications is that of economic matters. Given that most married individuals have combined incomes, separating their finances can have severe financial impacts on either member. While this is true for both parties, it is also true that the individual who earned less throughout the marriage will experience a greater loss after the divorce.
If you are going through a divorce or separation from your spouse, consult with a qualified attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are upheld in court. A divorce or legal separation can be very difficult for both parties and many times, it is difficult to understand where you will be left financially. Speaking to an experienced attorney can help you throughout the entire process.
The attorneys at The Knez Law Group are experienced in family law. They will champion for your rights and see that your interests are heard in court.