If you are thinking about getting a divorce in California, the financial aspect of it may weigh heavily on your mind. No matter your income level, your financial situation can take a hit when you divorce. Spouses who didn't work or worked less while married are in a harder position because they are financially dependent on the other spouse. Rather than allow the spouse to succumb to a lower standard of living or become a public charge, spousal support might be established.
That said, spousal support is not as common today because both spouses tend to work and make their own income. It is, however, an important component of any divorce where the financial disparity requires it. If you have questions about spousal support, whether you are the one who wants alimony or the one who must provide it, contact The Geller Firm at 415-840-0570 to schedule a consultation. Our divorce lawyer in California will provide honest answers and advocate for your rights.
Understanding Alimony in California
Spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony are all terms used to describe a situation where one spouse pays another spouse a court-ordered payment for a certain amount of time during or after a divorce. In California, these payments are referred to as spousal support.
Spouses can agree on spousal support, but the end result must be fair. If you fail to agree, the spouse seeking support must file a formal notice with the court to request alimony.
Alimony can be temporary or permanent, the former of which is the norm. It can also be a lump-sum versus periodic monthly payments, the latter of which is the norm. Further, spousal support is not always in the form of money but can include a property transfer. Both lump-sum payments and property transfers are non-modifiable once the order is issued. That means if circumstances change, the alimony will not change. However, when it is in the form of periodic payments, spousal support is modifiable.
Factors Determining the Amount of Spousal Support
The circumstances of the spouses going through a divorce will determine both the amount and the duration of alimony payments. Some of the most important factors that might influence alimony include but are not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- Age of the spouses
- Mental or physical condition of each spouse
- The income disparity between the spouses
- The likelihood that the financially-dependent spouse can secure a well-paying job
- Professional skills or educational accomplishments of the dependent spouse
- The couple's standard of living during the marriage
- Individual assets of each spouse
- How long it would take for the dependent spouse to become self-sufficient
- Any children and if child support will be needed
As mentioned above, you and your spouse can determine the amount by an agreement without interference of the court, keeping in mind it must be fair.
Termination of Spousal Support in California
An end date can also be determined by agreement between the spouses, but if not, the court will determine it. Other times or in lieu of an end date, spousal support may terminate if one of the following occurs:
- The supported spouse remarries or cohabitates; or
- Either spouse dies.
A significant event may occur, too, which prompts an end to spousal support. In that case, it's determined on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the reason to terminate spousal support, evidence may need to be provided to support the reason for termination.
Defenses to Challenge Spousal Support
Alimony can be a highly contested aspect of any divorce. The spouse who may be ordered to pay alimony may want to challenge it. Reasons to deny a spousal support claim include but are not limited to:
- Marital misconduct
- Cruelty, including domestic violence
- Felony conviction
- Humiliation that makes marriage intolerable
In the end, if spousal support is contested, the final say on the matter will be the judge. It's important to try at all costs to come to an agreement because the expense of hearings or a trial can take its toll on a divorcing couple.
Spousal Support Enforcement in California
Once a spousal support order is signed by a judge, it is enforceable. Most times, payment is set up through the employer and automatically sent to the supported spouse. Other times, the paying spouse pays the supported spouse directly. The arrangement of spousal support payments will be included in the order.
If the paying spouse fails to pay, they can be held in contempt of court and could face fines and penalties. The supported spouse can file a show-cause action with the court and a hearing will be set.
Contact a Spousal Support Lawyer in California Today
If you are seeking a divorce, you should always get the advice and guidance of a divorce lawyer. At The Geller Firm, our family law lawyer will provide the support and representation you need, including your efforts to obtain, argue against, or modify alimony. Contact us online or directly at 415-840-0570 to schedule a consultation.