Not every former spouse receives alimony, which is also called spousal support or maintenance. Alimony will be awarded only when a former spouse is unable to meet their needs without financial assistance from a spouse who can afford to pay it. Spousal support may be temporary, such as when a former spouse needs time to get back into the job market, brush up on skills, complete an educational program, or raise the children; or permanent, such as when a spouse may never become self-supporting due to age or disability.
Spousal support, or alimony, payments are made from one spouse to another under a separation or divorce order. They are meant to help an economically disadvantaged spouse continue to enjoy a similar standard of living after the marriage ends. In the majority of cases, the spouse who earns a higher income is ordered to pay spousal support to the other spouse. Whether you are seeking spousal support or if you think you may be responsible for spousal support, our Los Angeles spousal support lawyers can represent your best interests in the courts so you get a fair judgment.
Spousal support is not a right, nor a guarantee. It is not intended to punish a spouse for misbehavior during the marriage, nor is it a reward or consolation prize for having tolerated maltreatment during the marriage. California’s Family Code, Section 4320 states that marital misconduct has no impact on financial resolutions. California is a no-fault state. The sole reason for spousal support is financial and to ensure that both parties are able to maintain a standard of living after the marriage that is close to the standard established during the marriage.
In California, there is a lot of judicial discretion in this area, so it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of what factors could affect your support you receive or pay. California has two types of spousal support:
- Temporary spousal support – also known as pendente lite (meaning “pending the litigation) support, is paid when appropriate until a complete agreement is reached, or until a Final Order of Divorce is entered. It is set at your initial hearing.
- Permanent spousal support – is support for an indefinite period of time in an amount that could be later modified if and when the circumstances change for either the payer or recipient of support.
A divorce is likely to have a financial impact on either spouse as the couple’s combined income becomes separate. If, as in most cases, one spouse earns more than the other, but the couple shared household income during the marriage, the spouse who earns less will suffer a greater loss.
California law makes provisions for ensuring spouses are not left destitute by a divorce in cases where they can demonstrate that they were financially dependent on their husbands or wives.
In considering a request for spousal support, a court that is hearing a divorce case will consider:
- Length of the marriage
- Relative earnings and estimated earning capacity of each spouse
- Ages and physical, mental and emotional conditions of each spouse
- Marital misconduct
SPOUSAL SUPPORT TERMINATION AND MODIFICATIONS
The court will continue to have control over your spousal support order for years to come. In California, spousal support is automatically terminated upon death or remarriage of the supported party. If there is a major change in the financial situation of either party, the court can make modifications to the support order as well. And while a court may not award alimony initially, they can reserve the right to award spousal support at a later date.
Spousal support is subject to review if the circumstances have changed enough to warrant a change in support. Generally, this involves the person paying alimony having encountered drastic financial difficulties, or the spouse receiving maintenance suddenly needing less support.