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What is spousal support?

| Nov 12, 2020 | Uncategorized

Ending a marriage or relationship may resolve some problems but also have financial consequences. In a California divorce or separation, however, a court may order a spouse to pay spousal support or alimony or a domestic partner to pay partner support.

Seeking support

A spouse or domestic partner can seek a support order from a court in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment. Courts may also include support orders in a domestic violence restraining order.

Temporary spousal support or temporary partner support orders may be issued if a party needs support during an ongoing court case. Courts can also order permanent or long-term spousal or partner support after the divorce or legal separation is final.

Calculating support

Courts want to assure that a spouse or partner receiving support will be able to support themselves within a reasonable time. Local judges generally use a formula to calculate the amount of temporary support.

For permanent support, judges rely on California legal standards:

  • The marriage or relationship’s length.
  • A spouse or partner’s needs based on the standard of living during the marriage or relationship.
  • The amount each person pays or can pay, including earnings and earnings capacity, to maintain their standard of living during the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • Whether employment would pose childcare difficulties.
  • Spouses’ or partners’ age and health.
  • Debts and assets.
  • Whether a spouse or partner assisted the other party with their education, training, career, or professional licensure.
  • Whether there was domestic violence.
  • If a spouse’s or domestic partner’s career was affected by unemployment, childcare, or domestic duties.
  • Any spousal support tax consequences.

Compliance

A court support order must be followed until the end date in the order, a court orders a change, or a court ends support. Orders may also end if the recipient party dies, remarries, or registers a new domestic partnership.

Ten percent interest per year is added on the balance due if a spouse or partner falls behind on their payments. A court order or garnishment concerning past-due support may include an amount exceeding the monthly ordered amount which goes toward resolving the arrears.

A court may find that a party in arrears is in contempt of court if they can pay support. This can lead to imprisonment in serious cases.

Changes

Either party may ask for modifications if there is a change in circumstances. This must be something significant such as a spouse or partner no longer needing support, the payor’s income substantially dropping, or a recipient party who is not making a good-faith effort to become self-supporting.

Seeking support may be complicated. An attorney can help protect a party’s rights in these proceedings.