When a couple decides to divorce, there are many decisions to be made, such as the division of property and assets to the getting child custody. However, one of the most contested issue is deals with spousal support. Spousal support comes in two main forms and the methods for evaluating form of support will vary. A temporary spousal support order will only last the duration of the divorce process, but a permanent award is designed to help the lower-earning spouse work their way into becoming self-sustaining.
The Los Angeles family law courts will often award alimony to a spouse who provided support to the primary income earner in the marriage and who stayed at home to raise the kids. Clearly, in most cases, this means the wife. Therefore, a primary concern in the divorce process is whether a family law judge will award temporary or permanent spousal support.
So, what is the difference and what factors are considered by the judge to make their decision. These are critically important life-altering questions to be answered and one of the most common our clients ask us. We are in a position to provide answers about spousal support and other family related questions because we are divorce experts with years of experience.
We have litigated countless spousal support issues and have a clear understanding on how judges will make their decisions. Let's take a closer look at this important issue. Alimony (known as “spousal support” under California law) is undergoing significant changes across the country. In recent years, many states have revised alimony laws to make it more difficult to qualify for alimony, and shorten the length of time for which alimony is awarded.
These trends are part of a larger movement to erase outdated and sexist stereotypes from family law. (Historically, alimony awards were based on the presumption that no woman would be able to support herself financially after a divorce.) These changes have significant consequences in any California divorce or legal separation.
If you are paying or receiving spousal support pursuant to a California family court order, it is important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorney about your legal rights. The amount and length of a support order can seriously affect the financial interest of both spouses for years to come. Call our spousal support lawyers to review your case.
What Can Spousal Support Be Awarded?
Spousal support can be awarded as part of a divorce or legal separation. Section 4320 of the California Family Code lists a number of factors the court must consider to determine whether a spouse qualifies for a support award, the amount of that award, and how long support should continue.
These factors include: the extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage (considering the marketable job skills of the supported party; the extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party; the ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living; the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage; the obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
Other factors include the duration of the marriage; the ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party; the age and health of the parties; all documented evidence of any history of domestic violence; the immediate and specific tax consequences to each party; the balance of the hardships to each party; and the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.
The general principle is that alimony should be awarded based upon one spouse's ability to pay and the other spouse's need for support. The ultimate goal of spousal support is to enable the recipient to become financially self-sufficient. To this end, support is rarely awarded on a permanent basis. Unless the recipient is elderly, physically disabled, or otherwise unable to engage in gainful employment, the court will presume that a support award should enable the recipient to engage in work that will make him or her financially independent.
What is Temporary Spousal Support?
Judges have the authority to make temporary awards of spousal support, meaning the award is only until the couple finalizes the divorce. The primary purpose of a temporary spousal support is to allow a lower-earning or even non-earning spouse to maintain their standard of living until trail. A hearing is set after a motion document called a “Request for Order” is filed with the family law court.
For these type of financial motions, it's required that each spouse file an Income and Expense Declaration to show their financial status. Clearly, temporary spousal support is awarded as a short-term solution. The primary method of calculating spousal support is to use a “guideline formula” that involves consideration of the income of both couples, tax filing status, among other spousal support factors.
What is Permanent Spousal Support?
Permanent spousal support is not always permanent, but it refers to the award at the end of a divorce proceeding. It's important to note it's not a lifetime award. The judge has wide discretion in awarding permanent spousal support and it's based on many factors. A Los Angeles County family court judge typically makes a permanent spousal support award based on the following:
- Assets and debts of both couples
- Marital standard of living
- Health of both couples
- Potential tax consequences
The court can consider any other factors they believe is necessary to make a reasonable award. In most cases, spousal support has a termination point as a spouse is expected to become self-supporting, commonly known as the “Gavron Warning.”
How Long Will Spousal Support Continue?
Pursuant to the California Family Code, support awards continue for a “reasonable period of time.” Section 4320 specifically states that a “reasonable period of time” shall generally be one-half the length of the marriage (except in the case of a marriage of long duration). However, the Section also specifically states that the court can order support for a greater or lesser length of time-based upon the factors and the circumstances of the parties.
If, for example, one spouse is unable to engage in full-time employment because they care for a disabled child, this might be a circumstance that justifies a longer support award. Similarly, if the parties have been married for a long time and are nearing retirement age, it would not be reasonable to expect one spouse to go back to school and gain marketable skills in order to become financially independent.
Ultimately, the specific facts of each couple's circumstances will determine the length of a spousal support award. This is why it is so important to be represented by an experienced attorney when litigating a spousal support claim.
If you have been ordered to pay spousal support, an attorney might be able to reduce the amount or length of the award. If you are seeking an order to receive spousal support, an attorney can help present your claim persuasively to the court in order to maximize the amount or length of the award. And if your former spouse is seeking to modify the support award after it has been issued, an attorney can help defend your right to receive spousal support payments.
Contact our Spousal Support Lawyers for Help
Whether you are making or receiving spousal support payments, you have legal rights. By hiring a seasoned Los Angeles spousal support attorney, you can be sure that your legal and financial interests are being adequately protected. Our attorneys have years of experience handling alimony litigation.
We need to first closely review the specific details of your situation in order to determine your legal options. Our skilled Los Angeles divorce and family attorneys will help fight for a fair resolution of all spousal support claims. Contact our law firm at (818) 528-3471 to schedule your free consultation.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436