The following are the questions most often ask by clients about California spousal support.
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Paying Spousal Support
Q: What is spousal support?
Before we address paying spousal support, we need to understand how spousal support is defined. Spousal support in California is known as alimony in other states. Spousal support is money awarded to one spouse who is called the supported spouse. The spouse paying spousal support, called the supporting spouse, is required to make monthly payments to the supported spouse. Paying spousal support in California can be in the form of temporary spousal support or permanent spousal support.
Q: What is temporary spousal support?
The supporting spouse will be paying spousal support to the supported spouse during and up to the finalizing of a divorce. The supporting spouse will be required to make these payments until all issues surrounding the divorce are addressed.
Q: What is permanent spousal support?
The supporting spouse will be paying spousal support to the supported spouse after divorce to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. The award of permanent spousal support is ongoing payments to the supported spouse until such time the supported spouse attains the living standard enjoyed during marriage.
Q: What is alimony?
Alimony is synonymous to the term spousal support. Paying spousal support is the same as paying alimony.
Q: Why do California courts award spousal support?
Paying spousal support in California is meant to bridge the gap between the time it takes for that spouse to obtain employment or resources that meet their cost of living needs. After divorce, one spouse is often left at a disadvantage due to the fact they are untrained or cannot obtain employment because they have been out of the workforce for such a significant amount of time. Paying spousal support allows the supported spouse to maintain the established marital standard of living while they become self-supporting.
Q: Is spousal support awarded in all divorce cases?
Paying spousal support is not required in all divorce cases. Spousal support is determined by each spouse’s income and their ability to attain employment to become self-supporting. Spousal support is not awarded in all cases but can be awarded to either spouse should they need support to maintain the standard of living experienced during marriage.
Q: Why should I care about paying spousal support?
Spousal support is often the largest financial obligation you will incur as part of your divorce. It can last for extended periods and result in substantial costs which, if not paid, can be enforced through a contempt proceeding.
Q: When does a California court use the Dissomaster computer program to determine Spousal Support payments?
While a California court may use a computer program to calculate guideline temporary spousal support, the courts are not allowed to use the Dissomaster program in calculating permanent spousal support. The court must consider a number of factors before making an award for permanent spousal support. Paying spousal support is determined by the Dissomaster only for temporary spousal support.
Q: Does my spouse’s infidelities affect spousal support?
California is considered a no-fault state which means that the courts will not consider your spouse’s affair when determining whether or not one spouse should be paying spousal support. However, if your spouse is cohabitating, the court must presume she has a decreased need for spousal support.
Q: Should I avoid going to court because of the high cost involved?
You should always try to negotiate before taking action to litigate the possibility that you may be paying spousal support. However, beware that should you negotiate you will need to make sure any agreement addresses all aspects of paying spousal support.
Q: What is the California 10-year rule?
Marriages of 10 years or more are considered marriages of long duration in California. As such the court is not allowed to set a definite termination date for spousal support at the time of the trial unless the reason for the decision has been substantiated. While the court cannot terminate spousal support by a certain date, they can set a date for termination. In marriages that are under 10 years, spousal support is presumed to be no longer in duration than half the length of the marriage unless the court finds reasons to extend paying spousal support.
Q: Can I stop paying spousal support when I retire?
In California, you are entitled to retire at age 65 and cannot be required to work and continue paying spousal support to support your spouse beyond that age. You may be able to terminate spousal support should you be forced into early retirement.
Q: How does my raise affect me paying spousal support?
A California court cannot consider your increased post-separation earnings as a basis for awarding support beyond that which is justified by the marital standard of living.
Q: Is my obligation for paying spousal support reduces if my income is reduced?
If your employment has been terminated, by no action of your own, you can request the court issue a temporary order to reduce spousal support. Should you be unable to obtain comparable employment and have to take a pay cut, you may be able to receive a permanent spousal support reduction or termination.
Q: Can I get my spousal support payments reduced if I am an independent contractor or self-employed?
Should your business be affected and you earnings are reduced, you should be able to have your spousal support obligations reduced.
Q: How much do I have to work if I’m self-employed?
In California, you are required to work a reasonable work regimen which takes into consideration your particular abilities.
Q: Can a California court order me to pay my former spouse a percentage of any bonuses or overtime pay?
Paying spousal support could include bonuses and overtime payments unless there is an annual cap. Any court order could end up providing your former spouse with more support than is consistent with the marital standard of living.
Q: How does a raise for my former spouse affect spousal support?
If you are paying spousal support, you can have your payments reduced or terminated should your former spouse begin to earn more.
Q: Can I force my former spouse to work and become self-supporting?
You cannot get a court order to force your spouse to work but you can request a vocational assessment and request the court to consider lowering or terminating support if they have not sought out employment. The court can also assign income to your former spouse if you can prove they are purposefully avoiding employment despite the availability of positions consistent with their skills.
Q: What can I do if my former spouse claims to be disabled?
You can request that you former spouse submit to an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME). Once completed, you can then have it reviewed by a licensed vocational counselor who will make suggestions as to what type of employment is available for your former spouse.
Q: How does the marital assets and community property we divide affect spousal support?
The assets your former spouse receives are considered and often used to argue for an order to limit or deny spousal support.
Q: What effects does filing for bankruptcy have on spousal support?
Under U.S. Federal law, spousal support obligations are generally non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Q: How does payment of spousal support affect tax filings?
The paying spouse can claim a deduction for spousal support payments which are taxed as income to the former spouse. This is changing with the new tax revisions enacted under President Trump. Beginning in 2019, spousal support will no longer be a deduction for the spouse paying spousal support.
Q: What effect, if any, does my former spouse’s new live-in friend have on spousal support?
You can request a reduction in spousal support based on the support your former spouse is receiving from their live-in friend.
Q: Do I continue paying spousal support when my former spouse remarries?
Your obligation to pay spousal support ends upon your former spouse’s remarriage.
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