How is Alimony and Spousal Support Decided in California?
The nature of alimony (and spousal support) has changed from the times when the wife typically received alimony after a divorce. Many couples now have individual careers, and same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. The trend for spousal support now is to provide support long enough to help the supported spouse to become self-sufficient.
When Can Alimony be Requested?
Alimony can be requested and awarded when you file for divorce. You can also request alimony any time after the initial filing of a petition for divorce. Temporary spousal support can be awarded prior to a final spousal support order. This usually occurs when one spouse is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other spouse as he or she is entitled to the same lifestyle that the marriage provided.
In some cases, you may qualify to ask for spousal support after the divorce is final, but it can be complicated as judges do not like to change marital dissolution agreements. Consult with a California family law attorney if you are considering making a request for alimony at any time during your divorce. An attorney can help answer questions on the factors that will determine if you qualify for alimony and what to expect.
Rules for Alimony
Generally, a spouse will receive alimony for a lifetime if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years and there is little chance of the supported spouse becoming self-sufficient. For marriages that did not make the 10-year mark, the judge will usually award half the length of the marriage or until the spouse requesting alimony is self-sufficient. Often this a heated debate. It is important to understand the rules before reaching an agreement with your spouse.
Some of the factors include:
(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:
(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
(2) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.
(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
(f) The duration of the marriage.CA Family Code 4320
The most important sections of this rule have to do with earning capacity and duration of the marriage as they are often the determining factors of the length and amount of alimony.
Obtaining or fighting spousal support in the state of California can be a stressful and complex process. Before you make final agreements regarding this issue during your divorce, it is a good idea to speak with a family law attorney to gather information about your rights and how to request spousal support. If you can’t afford an attorney, the Sonoma County Family Law Facilitator’s Office can help you file for spousal support, but their services are limited and they won’t be your attorney.