Alimony – Spousal Support

Alimony is characterized as Spousal Support in California.

A California court may order that one spouse pay support to the other, both during the dissolution proceeding in order to maintain the status quo (pendente lite support), and after the final judgment of dissolution has been entered. The duration of court ordered spousal support will depend upon the length of the marriage. Generally, if the parties have been married for less than ten (10) years, support will be ordered for one-half (½) the length of the marriage. If the parties have been married for more than ten (10) years, the court has jurisdiction to order support until the payee spouse either re-marries or dies.

Spousal support is governed by Family Code section 4320. Thus, when ordering permanent support, a judge will look at the factors set forth in that section. These include, the standard of living during marriage, the income of both parties, the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, their health, their earning capacity, education, job skills, their assets and liabilities, and the ability of the non-earner spouse to obtain the skills necessary to become self-sufficient.

The calculation of the amount of spousal support is determined by the dissomaster, which is a computer program used by attorneys to calculate support payments based on California guidelines. The parties may agree amongst themselves to waive spousal support.

However, it is not advisable to waive spousal support unless you have consulted with an experienced attorney, and are very clear of what you are entitled to, and what you may be giving up. Often times, people waive spousal support because they believe it will expedite the proceedings. They often later learn that they gave up a substantial amount of money.

A court has discretion to order spousal support in the form of monthly payments, or to order that it be paid in one lump sum. Obviously this decision will be determined, in large part, by the parties financial situation, and the ability of the payor spouse to make one lump sum payment. Parties that elect to make one lump sum payment, find that option attractive because it necessary means that the payor and payee spouses will not continue to have contact with one another. Thus, they can move on with their lives more easily and quickly.

The internal revenue code provides that spousal support payments are taxable as ordinary income of the payee spouse, and are deductible by the payor spouse. Payments made in the absence of court orders are deemed to be gifts. Thus, in order to take advantage of the tax benefits set forth in the code, it is important for the parties to have enforceable court orders in place.

If you are seeking spousal support, or are fighting an unfair support agreement, I am ready to be your advocate during this process.

Alimony – Spousal Support