What is Spousal Support Guidelines in California Spousal Support Guidelines in California, which can also referred to as Alimony , is payment from one spouse (“payor spouse”) to another (“supported spouse” or “payee spouse”) after they separate with plans to divorce. A written agreement or order that requires the payor spouse to make payments to support the other spouse should be filed with the court before any payments are made, so there can be no dispute that the money changing hands is Spousal Support. In California, spouses can request temporary Spousal Support, permanent Spousal Support, or both. California state law dictates that permanent spousal support is determined by carefully reviewing numerous factors. The court has tremendous discretion in setting Spousal Support. If you are unable to settle or resolve this issue, then you need to develop detailed evidence about each factor set forth below. In order for spousal or partner support to be legally established and officially start, there must be a court case. A spouse or domestic partner can ask the judge to make a spousal or partner support order as part of 1 of these types of cases: • Divorce, legal separation, or annulment; or • A domestic violence restraining order. You can ask for spousal support, or partner support to be paid while your case is going on. This is called a “temporary spousal support order” or a “temporary partner support order.” Support can also be ordered once the divorce or legal separation becomes final, as part of the final divorce or separation judgment. When it is ordered once the case becomes final, it is called “permanent (or long-term) spousal or partner support.” A judge must consider what each spouse or partner can earn to keep a standard of living close to what they each had during the marriage or partnership. To do this, the judge looks at the: • Marketable skills of the spouse or partner getting support; • Job market for those skills; • Time and expense the spouse or partner who gets support will need to get the education or training to develop more marketable skills or to get a job; • Extent that the earning capacity (the ability to earn income) of the spouse or partner who gets support was impaired by periods of unemployment during the marriage/partnership when he or she was devoted to domestic duties.
Length of the marriage or domestic partnership The duration of a permanent or long-term spousal suport or partner support order is closely related to the length of the marriage or domestic partnership. The goal of spousal or partner support is that the spouse or partner getting support will be able to support himself or herself within a reasonable period of time. The law says that, in general, a “reasonable period of time” may be one-half the length of the marriage/partnership. BUT the law also says that the judge has discretion (power) to make a different decision given the specific circumstances of the case. There is an important exception. When a marriage or partnership is considered a “long-term” marriage or partnership (usually 10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date to the spousal or partner support. The length of the marriage or domestic partnership is generally from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. Because the date of separation can have very important consequences when it comes to deciding spousal or partner support, the parties in a divorce or separation case may not be able to agree on a date of separation, and the judge may have to decide what that date will be. Also, the judge can take into account the periods of separation during the marriage/partnership in deciding if the marriage/partnership is of long duration. Domestic violence and spousal support or partner support When deciding spousal or partner support, the judge must take into account documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the parties. When the spouse or partner that would pay the support is the abusive person, the judge will consider any emotional distress resulting from the violence suffered by the spouse or partner to be supported.
What is “Temporary Spousal Support?” Temporary Spousal Support is a regular payment made from the spouse who earns more money to the one who earns less. It’s referred to as “temporary” because it’s meant to provide some financial support to the lower-earning spouse during the divorce proceeding, and it ends once a permanent Spousal Support award is in place. You can calculate temporary Spousal Support using a specialized family law software program that automatically generates a support figure based on specific factors, such as the spouses’ incomes, health insurance deductions, and other earnings-related considerations. Though there are a few different software programs out there, they arrive at roughly the same support figure. Family law attorneys and judges across the state use this type of software to calculate temporary support.
What is “Permanent Spousal Support?” Permanent spousal support, sometimes referred to as “long-term support,” is a regular support payment from the payor spouse to the supported spouse. Unlike temporary Spousal Support, which is paid to help the supported spouse meet expenses during the divorce, permanent Spousal Support is granted in order to place the supported spouse at or near the “marital standard of living” (the financial standard of living established during the marriage) after the divorce. What factors do courts consider when determining permanent Spousal Support? If you and your spouse can’t agree on permanent spousal support as part of your divorce negotiations, you’ll probably end up in court, where a judge will decide both the amount and duration of long-term support. When looking at who should pay Spousal Support, and in what amount, courts consider the extent to which each spouse’s earning capacity (potential to earn income) is sufficient to maintain the marital standard of living, taking into account a long list of factors including: • the marketable skills of the supported spouse; the job market for those skills; the time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire more marketable skills or employment • the extent to which the supported spouse’s earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to permit the supported spouse to devote time to domestic duties • the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s attainment of an education, training, career, or license • the paying spouse’s ability to pay Spousal Support (taking into account the paying spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living) • both spouses’ financial needs based on the marital standard of living • both spouses’ obligations (debts) and assets, including separate property • the length of the marriage • the supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home without excessively interfering with the interests of any dependent children in his or her custody, and • the age and health of the spouses.
The term “permanent” Spousal Support is somewhat of a misnomer. Very few, if any, support awards will continue permanently. Generally, for short-term marriages (under ten years), permanent Spousal Support lasts no longer than half the length of the marriage, with “marriage” defined as the time between the date of marriage and the date of separation. So, if your marriage lasted eight years, you may expect to pay or receive Spousal Support for four years.
If your marriage was very short, permanent support may never become necessary. For example, if your marriage lasted only one year, you can expect to pay or receive Spousal Support for six months; but this obligation may be met through temporary support payments. For marriages over ten years, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for figuring out how long Spousal Support should last. Judges will consider various factors in order to place the supported spouse in a position as close as possible to the marital standard of living, until that spouse can reasonably become self-supporting. After the divorce is final, Spousal Support will continue as stated in your “marital settlement agreement” (a written agreement between spouses that resolves divorce issues) and/or court order awarding Spousal Support, unless one spouse requests a modification or termination of support. The judge will also consider any history of violence at the hands of the spouse or partner to be supported against the person that would pay the support. And there is a rebuttable presumption against giving spousal or partner support to an abusive spouse or partner who has a criminal conviction for domestic violence against the other spouse or partner.
Ending or Modifying Spousal Support or Partner Support Spousal and domestic partner support usually ends when: • A court order or judgment says it ends; • One of the spouses or domestic partners dies; or • The person getting the support remarries or registers a new domestic partnership. • If you’re going through a divorce, you probably have a few questions regarding Spousal Support, including how it’s calculated and how long it will last. This article provides answers to several frequently asked questions about Spousal Support in California. Either spouse may request that the duration and/or amount of Spousal Support be modified (changed), as long as the original order (or marital settlement agreement) awarding Spousal Support doesn’t contain any language that makes Spousal Support “non-modifiable.” There are two ways to modify Spousal Support. First, you and your spouse can agree to change the amount and/or duration of Spousal Support. If this happens, you should enter into a written contract that spells out the new agreement, and ask the judge to turn the agreement into an official court order. If you can’t agree, you’ll have to head to court. The person who wants to modify Spousal Support must file a motion with the court and show a “material change of circumstances” from the time the original support order was made. The involuntary loss of a job, for example, may constitute a material change of circumstances. If the payor spouse’s income has decreased through no fault of his or her own, a judge may find that it’s appropriate to reduce support. Similarly, you may be able to completely terminate your obligation to make Spousal Support payments, as long as you can show a change of circumstances that warrants termination. However, if your order – whether imposed by the court or arrived at by agreement between you and your spouse – was made “non-terminable,” then you won’t be able to terminate it prior to the date it’s set to end.
Calculating Spousal or Partner Support For temporary spousal or partner support, judges in many local courts generally use a formula to calculate the amount. Courts in different counties may use slightly different factors in calculating temporary support. Your court’s local rules should explain how temporary support is calculated in your county. Check your court’s local rules for the temporary support guideline. The judge will not use a formula to figure out how much spousal or partner support to order at the end of your case. When the judge makes his or her final spousal or partner support order, the judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320. These factors include: • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership; • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership; • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership; • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children; • The age and health of both people; • Debts and property; • Whether 1 spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license; • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership; • Whether 1 spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and • The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws have not been changed to recognize domestic partnerships). The spousal or partner support order then becomes part of your final divorce or legal separation judgment.
Is Spousal Support Tax Deductible in California? Yes, as long as you and your spouse file separate tax returns. The paying spouse can deduct the full amount of Spousal Support payments made during the tax year for which he or she is filing. If you are the spouse receiving spousal support you must claim the support payments. If you file jointly, Spousal Support is not deductible. For additional information the following link it is available at the following http://www.courts.ca.gov/1038.htm