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5 Things Divorcing Persons Need to Know About Spousal Support in California

Dear clients and friends,

If you or a loved one are getting, or near, a divorce you need to have these 5 basic understandings about spousal support.

Q: Is Alimony the same as Spousal support?

Yes. In California it is referred to as spousal support and its purpose is the same as alimony which is to maintain a former spouse's marital standard of living after the termination of a marriage. It is not unusual that one spouse is untrained and has not been in the wok force for a long-while, making it difficult for that spouse to readily attain employment adequate to maintain his or her standard of living. Spousal support orders are meant to cover the period of time that it takes for a supported spouse to obtain suitable employment or remarry.

Q. Is Spousal support just a computer calculation as it is with child support?

No, is the short answer. The more detailed answer is that the court will use a statutorily directed computer analysis (Dissomaster) for temporary spousal support. However, permanent spousal support must be determined by a Judge in accordance with a statutory set of guideline factors.

Q: Is there a ten year rule for life time support orders in California?

No. Marriages of ten years or more are considered marriages of long duration in California. This means that the court does not set a termination date for spousal support at the time of trial. But, this does not mean that the court provides life time spousal support in marriages of long duration. What it does mean is that the court maintains jurisdiction over spousal support for life - and this includes terminating support if the supported spouse has failed to become self-supporting in a reasonable period of time.

Q. If my income is reduced can I get my spousal support obligations reduced as well?

Yes. But, to obtain modification of a spousal support order, the moving party must show a material change in circumstances since the order was made.

The word “material” here is key. The change in circumstances cannot be a mere raise in salary or a slight reduction in expenses. It needs to be a material, or significant change, such that the parties are in very different positions than they were at the time the order was made.

Furthermore, the material change in circumstances cannot be one that was reasonably expected, such as paying off the mortgage on your home on schedule - meaning you now have fewer monthly expenses - because that was an “expected” event.

Q. If my income goes up significantly after a divorce can my wife forever continue to modify spousal support payments upward?

No. The limiting factor on this is the basic purpose of spousal support for maintaining a supported spouse at the standard of living she had during the marriage. If it is determined that her demands for spousal support would exceed her marital standard of living you will not be required to pay those additional monies.

IMPORTANT: all of the above is what happens if the parties do not come to an out-of-court resolution on Spousal Support. The upshot of all this is that you should really hire an attorney before signing off on a long-term spousal support award.

Having an experienced attorney before signing off on a long-term spousal support award is the way to go. You are invited to call us for a free phone evaluation of your matter and to discuss our creative fee arrangements. Looking forward to hearing from you.



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