Can I receive alimony? Will I have to pay alimony? How much will it cost and for how long? These are popular inquiries for Family Law attorneys.
In California, alimony is referred to as Spousal Support. It is a separate calculation from Child Support.
To seek any type of support – be it Child Support or Spousal Support – one must file a formal request with the Court. It includes a sworn statement relating to the facts along with the law supporting the request. Once filed with the Court, a hearing is set. The request can be filed at the same time as one’s Dissolution of Marriage Petition and Summons or anytime thereafter.
At the hearing the Court will decide to award (or not) an interim order for Spousal Support. At this stage the Court will most often determine the amount of monthly payments to be made from a computer generated calculation. This “guideline” amount will last until the parties voluntarily enter into a permanent agreement for Spousal Support or the Court rules on it.
There are a series of factors that the Court considers under California Family Law Code section 4320 when issuing a permanent spousal support order. The court looks at the earning capacity of each spouse and whether it is sufficient to allow him or her a similar standard of living as that experienced during the marriage. They consider the following factors:
• The marketable skills, job market, time and money required for the supported spouse to obtain the education or training needed to develop income producing skills.
• If the supported spouse’s present or future earning ability was impaired because of unemployment during the marriage in order to take care of the household.
• If the supported spouse helped the supporting spouse to obtain an education, training, career position or license.
• The ability of the supporting spouse to pay support, considering earnings, earning ability, assets and standard of living.
• The needs of each party based on the standard of living during the marriage.
• The obligations and assets (including separate property) of each spouse.
• The duration of the marriage.
• The ability of the supported spouse to be employed without unduly interfering with the interests of dependant children in that spouse’s custody.
• The age and health of the parties.
• Any history of domestic violence and the emotional impact upon a spouse as a result. If the spouse requesting support has been convicted of abuse, a spousal support award may be eliminated or reduced.
• The tax consequences of payment of support. Spousal support payments are included as income for tax purposes of the supported spouse and are deductible by the supporting spouse.
• The hardships to either party as a result of the support order are to be balanced.
The amount of spousal support awarded and how long it will be paid will vary from Judge to Judge. The trial Judge has wide discretion in this area.
An important guideline for the amount of spousal support is based on the couple’s standard of living during the marriage. The Court is supposed to only consider income and standard of living DURING the marriage to calculate spousal support.
Next week I’ll go over some more details on how alimony works in California and how the length of one’s marriage can affect the alimony awarded.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions we can help you with regarding family law. We do offer a free phone consultation to find out how we can help.