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Understanding California Spousal Support Laws

handing money over

How a Spouse Gets Paid

When a couple gets a divorce, one of the spouses may be ordered to pay the other spouse a specific amount of money every month in order to maintain that spouse’s ability to live comfortably. Spousal support, commonly called alimony, can be a contentious legal battle for both parties. Many go into the case unsure of how much they will pay at the end of the proceeding. Here is what you need to know about California’s spousal support laws.

Starting the Process

Spousal support is not automatically assumed in a California divorce. Instead, the party that wishes to receive spousal support must request the court make a spousal support order. The party may request that spousal support be awarded after the divorce is finalized or throughout the process. Spousal support ordered for the duration of the trial is known as temporary spousal support, whereas support awarded for post-divorce life is known as permanent spousal support.

Factors Used to Determine Support

Whereas temporary spousal support is calculated using a formula, permanent spousal support does not rely on a formula to determine how much is paid. Instead, judges are provided with factors under the California Family Code. These guidelines include the following items:

  • The earning capacity of each party after the divorce is finalized. This means the judge examines what each person has the potential to earn to maintain their standard of living based on their marketable skills, the current job market, and what costs are necessary to improve those skills and become more marketable for employment.
  • The ability of each individual to pay spousal support. This factor examines each person’s income, earning potential, other assets, and living standard.
  • Each person’s needs are based on their living standards.
  • The assets of each party, including property, are deemed separate and debts are assigned.
  • The length of the marriage is often used to determine the length of spousal support payments.
  • The age and health of both parties.
  • The presence of children and the impact having a job would have on their development.
  • If past circumstances dictated that one spouse provided for the other spouse’s continuing education.
  • The presence of domestic violence, either past or present, and the emotional distress that may have been caused due to such actions.
  • Tax consequences brought on as a result of spousal support.
  • Other factors deemed just and equitable by the judge overseeing the case. These may vary on a case-by-case basis.

These factors allow a judge to determine how much spousal support is and equitable to pay to a dependent spouse.

Length of Spousal Support

The length of the marriage plays a role in determining how long a paying spouse must pay spousal support. While the duration of the payments is generally left to the discretion of the judge overseeing the case, courts have tended to avoid “lifetime support payments.”

It is becoming increasingly common to see spousal support last half of the length of a marriage that lasted for ten years or less. Marriages with a duration longer than this period may not have a set “end date” for spousal support, so it may be up to the person responsible for paying spousal support to prove that there may be a time when these payments will be unnecessary.

Other factors may contribute to the end of a spousal support order. For example, if the spouse receiving spousal support passes away or remarries someone else, they are no longer eligible for spousal support payments.

Working with a California Family Law Attorney

When dealing with a matter as complicated as spousal support payments, working with a family law attorney who understands how the courts may award spousal support and how to protect your rights in court is essential. At Site:BusinessName}, we aim to defend your rights and seek the best possible outcome.

To schedule a consultation with a team member, call us at (310) 736-2063 or visit us online and fill out our contact form.

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