When going through a divorce, one person may be eligible for spousal support from their partner. This means one spouse makes payments to the other for them to maintain what the court calls the “status quo” during the divorce proceedings and before everything is finalized. Spousal support, or alimony payments (these terms are interchangeable), is meant to provide financial support between the time it takes for that spouse to obtain employment or resources to become self-supporting. Often during a divorce, one spouse has been out of the workforce, and they cannot quickly reintegrate and find employment, and maintain their lifestyle. Therefore, spousal support payments aim to prevent one spouse from suffering an immediate decrease in their standard of living.
Tracy Duell-Cazes is a family law attorney and a Certified Family Law Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the California State Bar.
Most divorce cases include the issues of spousal support and child support. How spousal support is handled is different with every case depending on circumstances. If it is a part of a divorce, it can immediately become one of the biggest expenses incurred. Spousal support can last for years, so every adjustment can mean a difference of thousands of dollars. To calculate spousal support, you can settle out of court or pursue litigation. The amount cannot be calculated automatically with a computer, so while settling out of court may save you legal fees in the short term, the long-term effects of a spousal support agreement that is not litigated could cause you to lose money in the long run.
By pursuing litigation, the terms of support will be much firmer. Spousal earning capacity can be established by the testimony of a licensed vocational counselor, arrangements for making modifications, or termination of support in the case of a change in income for either party and the spouse paying the support payments will be able to hash out their payment in accordance with all aspects of their income.
There are numerous factors to consider in determining spousal support. Things like upcoming retirement, remarriage, and self-employment can affect spousal support amounts while something like a prospective raise cannot. Similarly, since California is a no-fault state, any affairs your partner may have had are not taken into consideration when deciding support unless they are cohabitating with another partner, which would presumptively decrease their need for income.
In addition to the amount per month that is paid, the duration of spousal support payments also needs to be determined. A general rule of thumb is that payments will last for half the length of a marriage that lasted less than ten years. If the marriage lasted longer than ten years the court will not set a time limit for spousal support. In this case, the burden to prove that spousal support is no longer necessary will fall on the party who pays support.
Temporary Spousal Support is court-ordered support that is calculated by a legal formula that is paid during a divorce, legal separation, or annulment. Permanent Spousal Support (or sometimes known as Judgment Support) is ordered at the end of the divorce and is not calculated through any formula.
Temporary Support can be ordered during an annulment, but permanent support cannot be ordered once the annulment is granted. Permanent Spousal Support does not always include a specific end date.
With the change in the tax laws in 2018, the issue of finalization of the spousal support issue after that year becomes more critical. Beginning with orders entered in 2019 spousal support will no longer be tax-deductible to the paying spouse and conversely non-taxable to the receiving spouse. Modifications of the pre-2019 orders may result in unintended taxability consequences and even loss of tax benefits of being modified from a temporary support order to a Judgment Support order.
In total, spousal support is something that can weigh heavily on divorce proceedings. For the paying spouse, it can be a large expense on top of divorce proceedings that needs to be realized and for the unemployed spouse, it can save them a large financial burden in the long run. If you find yourself in a position where you may need to receive or pay spousal support, taking the proceedings for support to court may seem like a hassle in the short term, but the long-term effects of such a significant part of a divorce can make the extra court proceedings worth it.
Spousal Support Attorney Tracy Duell-Cazes, or TDC Family Law, we work with our clients offering legal advice and counsel to work through all of the concerns and considerations as it pertains to Spousal Support.
Contact TDC Family Law for all of your Spousal Support issues.
1530 The Alameda, Suite 108
San Jose, CA 95126
TDC Family Law serves the entire state of California for Contempt of Court and Private Settlement Judge & Mediation
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