Spousal Support in California.
When two people fall in love and stand in front of a father and utter the words, “I do,” they never think of separation or divorce. It might seem harsh, but in many marriages, divorce is inevitable, and the only way out. There are cases where, despite the tireless efforts of a couple, a marriage just does not work. These marriages can turn into a toxic relationship and can even negatively impact the lives of both entities involved.
Divorce is an agonizing phase of life, and it can disrupt the balance in life as it not only affects the mental and physical health, but it even rips an individual off their financial stability. Many matters require attention during a divorce, and each of these takes a significant portion of an individual’s health and financial standing.
The high-priority in a divorce includes asset division, debt division, child custody, child support, and alimony!
Alimony, or as generally, people call it, Spousal Support is one of the most prominent matters of a divorce. It is the amount of money one spouse has to pay to the other spouse in an attempt to maintain the pre-divorce lifestyle. It is an essential matter if one spouse does not have a source of income.
Under the California family law, a “payor spouse” has to provide fixed monthly and annual payments to “payee spouse.” The purpose is to bridge the time between divorce and the time a spouse arranges a source of income for themselves. There are cases where one spouse sacrifices their career and even cut down their stream of income to support the career of the other. In such cases, the Court orders spousal support.
As per the California law, there are two types of alimony, including temporary and permanent.
The matters of divorce take time to settle, years in many cases. Reaching a decision about spousal support is one of these matters. Unless a permanent solution is reached, the California Law judge passes an order of temporary alimony. Temporary spousal support is a regular payment a high-earning spouse makes to the low-earning spouse.
The amount paid to the payee under temporary alimony is enough to cover the daily expenses. The temporary alimony is terminated once a judge passes the permanent alimony judgment.
The second type of alimony is permanent, and it is referred to as long-term spousal support. As temporary alimony pays for the day-to-day expenses while the payments in permanent alimony help the payee maintain the marital standard of living. It is a regular fixed payment to the payee, exactly like the temporary support; the only difference is the amount of payments.
Spousal support is never permanent, as the name suggests. The reason is that only a few alimonies last permanently, while in the majority of cases, alimony ends or is terminated by the California family law court.
Under California, a marriage that lasts for less than ten years comes under the category of short-term marriage. Whether a marriage lasted for six months or six years, alimony is something that does not depend on it. Only the timeframe for which a payor spouse has to make spousal support payments relies on the length of the marriage.
In short-term marriages, a payor has to pay spousal support for a timeframe that is equal to half of the length of the marriage. If a marriage lasts for one year, the payor will have to make regular payments for up to six months.
The marriages that last longer than ten years come under long-term marriages as per the California law. There is no fixed rule according to the law that estimates the timeframe for which the spousal support payments will last in the case of long-term marriages.
The spousal support may last for a time till the payee becomes self-supporting and develops a reliable stream of income. The factors that help a court decide how long the spousal support will last include remarriage of the payee if the payee is living with another person for more than three months, the retirement age of payor, and the death of either spouse.
The amount of the payments of spousal support is stated in the “marital settlement agreement." It even includes a timeframe for which the payments have to be made.
Until stated in the marital settlement agreement, a spousal support payor can modify or even terminate alimony if the situation demands. There are two ways a spouse can either amend or terminate the alimony.
The first case is to reach a mutual agreement with a payee spouse over any modifications that one needs in the spousal support. The best approach is to create an explicit agreement with the alimony-awarded spouse. Once the divorced spouses reach an agreement, they can request the judge to consider converting the agreement into an official court order. It is the simplest way to make modifications to the alimony.
The second case is to head directly to the Court. It is a way that should only be chosen if the payee does not agree with any modifications. The payor must file a motion with the Court, which requires them to provide proof of the material chance of circumstances.
The material change of circumstances may include a payor losing his job, reduction in income, or retirement. The California family law court will consider the modifications only in these circumstances until the marital settlement agreement states that the agreement in non-modifiable.
Even the termination of spousal support depends on the material change of circumstances. There are some circumstances under which a spouse can terminate the spousal support. In short-term marriages, a court will order the alimony to end after a timeframe equal to half of the length of the marriage. Things are complicated in the case of long-term marriages.
Usually, in a long-term marriage, the provision that spousal support will end after a time equal to half of the length of the marriage is not applicable. A payor spouse has to petition the Court to terminate the spousal support with proof of the change of circumstances.
The material change of circumstances includes the retirement of the payor spouse, remarriage of the payee, and death of the payee. According to the California law, a payor does not have to keep working past their retirement age just to pay for the spousal support payments. They can retire at the age of 65 and petition the Court to terminate the spousal support.
By providing a court with substantial proof of why the termination of spousal support has become an absolute necessity is the most important part of the process of alimony termination. Other cases that can lead to termination of alimony include a decrease in payee’s living expenses, payee getting a job, payee coming into an influx of inheritance money, payee’s cohabitation with a non-marital partner, and remarriage.
Determining the amount of spousal support is a challenge in itself. In case of temporary support, a court may consider the following factors;
In the case of permanent support, there are a lot of factors that can contribute to the amount of spousal support. Here is a list of all factors that contribute to determining the amount of spousal support.
These are all the factors that the California Court brings into consideration when determining the alimony.
Earning capacity is one of the most dominant factors when determining spousal support. It is essential to have a clear understanding of the concept. The earning capacity of an individual is the amount that a person is capable of earning but is not earning at the present state. The family law court in California brings into consideration some factors that help in the determination of one’s earning capacity. The elements of consideration include;
The income of each of the spouses is an essential factor that significantly contributes to spousal support. A judge awards alimony only after analyzing the earning capacity and the job of each spouse. A lot of spouses, to receive spousal support, do not make the required efforts to get a job. It is not the right approach. If a court realizes it or the payor brings it into the Court’s understanding that the payee is not making a good faith effort to get employment, a judge may pass a work order.
A work order is a judgment, after which a payee has to start making significant efforts to get employment. The payee will even have to provide proper proof of the efforts one is making to get a reliable job and develop a stable source of income. Work order might also specify the set number of jobs that a payee has to apply in, for a given timeframe.
The proofs that the curt accepts include a resume and cover letters along with the job ads. Some orders may even require a spouse to register with an unemployment officer. It is not a guarantee that the payee will get a job, but it can lay the grounds for termination of spousal support.
If, after inquiry, the California Family Law Court finds out that the spouse has an earning capacity but is not willing to work, it can lead to termination of spousal support. If even after the work order, a spouse does not make the efforts to get a job, the Court will consider as contempt of Court. For not obeying the Court’s order, the payee can face criminal charges.
It is everything that you need to know about spousal support in California. If you still have questions about spousal support, you may contact a professional divorce attorney who has expertise in alimony!