When it comes to divorce, the subject of alimony is infamous. You probably have some concept of how alimony works—with the higher-earning spouse making regular payments to the other spouse—but there are a lot of misconceptions about this pivotal, sometimes hot-button divorce topic.
Additionally, every state has its own alimony laws and requirements, so there is a high potential for confusion. In California, alimony is officially referred to as “spousal support.” In today’s blog, we will detail seven things every divorcing couple should know about spousal support in California.
1) There are two kinds of spousal support in California
In any California divorce, there is the potential for two different types of spousal support: Temporary or Permanent. Temporary spousal support may be required before a divorce is finalized. As the name suggests, the payments are only temporary, and will no longer be required once the divorce becomes official. Temporary spousal support is paid by the higher-earning spouse throughout divorce proceedings to help ensure that the lower-earning spouse is financially provided for. Permanent spousal support is regular payments made by one spouse—known as the payor spouse—to the other—known as the supported spouse—for a period of time after the divorce becomes final. It is meant to help the supported spouse maintain the financial status quo that was established during the marriage.
2) Permanent doesn’t necessarily mean permanent
The term “permanent spousal support” is generally not very accurate. Sometimes referred to as “long-term support,” permanent spousal support will almost never actually be permanent. Generally, the duration that the payor spouse will be required to make spousal support payments after the divorce is finalized will depend on the length of the marriage. Every case is unique, but usually, the payor spouse will have to pay spousal support for a duration no longer than half the length of the marriage if the marriage lasted less than ten years. The duration of spousal support payments when the marriage lasted longer than ten years will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
3) Many factors are considered when calculating spousal support
Every divorce is unique, and every determination of spousal support will be based on the specific circumstances of the couple’s life. There is no systematic way to precisely calculate how much spousal support will need to be paid. Judges will consider numerous factors such as the length of the marriage, age and health of each spouse, each spouse’s income, the supported spouse’s ability to obtain employment, the payor spouse’s ability to pay, and periods of past unemployment of the supported spouse devoted to domestic duties like raising children. The general rule of thumb is that the spousal support payments should allow the supported spouse to achieve the standard of living that was established during his or her marriage.
4) Marital misconduct is not considered
In California, spousal support cannot be used to punish a spouse for misbehavior. Spousal support can only be awarded for financial purposes, not because one spouse committed adultery or some other misdeed. The lone exception is that a judge may withhold spousal support from a spouse who otherwise would have been entitled to it if that spouse committed acts of violence against the would-be payor spouse.
5) Spousal support is tax-deductible
In the State of California, the payor spouse is allowed to deduct spousal support payments from his or her taxes, so long as they are not filing jointly.
6) Spousal support is usually not set in stone
The circumstances of our lives can change in an instant, and either the payor spouse or the supported spouse may seek a modification of the spousal support that was ordered in the marital settlement agreement in order to match changes in their lives. For example, if the payor spouse was in an accident and could not afford to pay spousal support due to significant medical bills, he or she could seek to modify the terms of the spousal support. You and your ex will either have to agree on the change, or you will need to pursue the modification in court.
7) Spousal support terminates upon death
If either spouse dies, the requirement for spousal support payments will terminate. If the payor spouse dies, they will not be required to pay spousal support out of their estate. If the supported spouse dies, their estate cannot seek payments from the living payor spouse.
The Law Office of Kayleene H. Writer is dedicated to helping couples calculate an equitable level of spousal support that is fair for all parties. We will also serve as advocates who will fight to help make sure you receive the proper amount of support and help ensure that the court’s support order is carried out. If you are getting a divorce in California, and you need guidance regarding spousal support or any other aspects of your divorce, please give us a call today.