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  • Alimony in divorce

Understanding Alimony in your divorce

Alimony in California is called “spousal support”. When a married couple divorces a court may require the higher earner to assist the lower earner in maintaining that lifestyle for some period of time, hence alimony in the form of “spousal support”. Understanding what spousal support means can predetermine how each spouse views alimony and their decision on how they will handle their divorce case.

In California, a judge may award temporary support during divorce trials, as well as support after a divorce is final. Spousal support orders usually direct one spouse to pay the other a specific amount of money continually for a scheduled period of time. The amount of spousal support is calculated by subtracting 50% of the lower-earner’s net income from 40% of the higher earner’s, with adjustments for tax consequences and child support payments (if applicable). Spousal support can also consist of a one-time lump-sum payment. At times, spouses can agree between themselves on the terms and conditions of support payments.

The duration of spousal support in California is often tied to the length of the marriage. For a marriage of less than 10 years, a court won’t typically order support for longer than half the length of the marriage. If a marriage has lasted 10 years or more, the court commonly won’t set a definite end date for spousal support at the time of the divorce. At all times, both spouses have the right to request modification, unless they specifically agree to a termination date, or the court clearly terminates support at a later trial.

While courts and attorneys often refer to post-divorce spousal support as “permanent”, it is rare for a judge to order true permanent support. California courts require a spouse seeking support to make the effort to become self-supporting, regardless of the length of a marriage. A spouse who claims an inability to work, or an inability to become fully employed, will have to support this claim with evidence. True permanent spousal support is generally reserved for spouses who lack the ability to become self-supporting due to age or disability.

Alimony can be a complex part of your divorce and in contested cases, can become one of the most difficult aspects of your California divorce trial. If you have specific questions about alimony and divorce contact Thorsteinson Law Group, your trusted and experienced divorce and family law attorney.

Four types of alimony

Alimony is payment made by one ex-spouse to another to help support them during and after divorce proceedings. It is usually ordered when the judge finds that the divorce caused economic consequences for one ex-spouse. Below are the four types of alimony along with the factors in alimony/spousal support.

Four types of Alimony

Temporary – This is also known, as “alimony pendente lite” is an ongoing payment that is made when a couple is separated or in divorce proceedings, but not yet divorced. It can include payment for divorce costs, daily expenses, and continues until the court determines permanent alimony.

Permanent – The amount awarded after the conclusion of divorce proceedings, paid on a regular, recurring basis. Permanent alimony is usually due indefinitely, but is subject to change under certain circumstances such as remarriage or cohabitation.

Rehabilitative – In situations in which one ex-spouse is not self-sufficient, the judge may order payment of rehabilitative alimony to provide financial support while searching for a job or while attempting to expand employment skills. This is typically ordered for a fixed period of time.

Reimbursement– This type of alimony was intended to balance the scales on any support provided for higher education or work training by one ex-spouse. It requires a regular payment to reimburse the sponsoring ex-spouse the tuition costs paid, or a portion of those costs.

Lump-sum – This is also known, as “alimony in gross.” If one ex-spouse does not want any property or items of value from the marriage, the judge may order a one-time lump-sum payment in replacement of the property.

How the court awards

Spousal support awards are generally based upon the needs and abilities of each party, and when deciding, judges look at the following factors:
• The duration of the marriage
• Health and physical condition
• The earning capacity of the parties
• Present income of the parties
• 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;
• The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support
• The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage
• The jurisdiction of the marriage

If you have specific questions about alimony and divorce contact Brett Thorsteinson, your trusted and experienced divorce and family law attorney. Offices in Huntington Beach and Long Beach with free consultations.