Can You Get Long-Term Spousal Support in California?
Spousal support, commonly called “alimony,” is a financial award a judge can grant to the lesser-earning spouse during a California divorce.
Alimony awards are generally temporary, and “permanent” spousal support exists in name only, as it will rarely last for a lifetime. Rather, it's called long-term. A new court order in certain situations can modify it.
Temporary and permanent spousal support refers to the court order date rather than the duration of the payments. Temporary alimony is an award granted before the divorce is finalized.
The lesser-earning spouse can request temporary spousal maintenance for financial support during divorce proceedings. It will end when a judge finalizes the divorce, and at this moment, a long-term special support order might be awarded, but it's not automatic or guaranteed.
If a California family court judge grants permanent spousal support, the spouse will have to make payments to the supported spouse after a divorce for a certain amount of time.
Of note is that another type of permanent spousal support is long-term support. Permanent alimony is designed to support the receiving spouse after the divorce to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.
Still, while it's technically called “permanent,” it does not last forever. The length of time a permanent spousal support order will last depends on the case details. So, in the state of California:
- Temporary spousal support is awarded during divorce proceedings;
- Permanent spousal support is awarded as part of the final divorce decree.
As noted, permanent alimony is also called long-term support and is not “permanent” but can last several years.
Again, spouses can mutually agree independently, but the family court can also determine the amount. Our California divorce and family law lawyers will review this topic further below.
What Factors Are Considered for Long-Term Alimony?
When a California family court makes a spousal support determination, they will examine various factors.
One of the primary questions they will ask the spouse requesting permanent support will be their marital standard of living after the divorce. Thus, the main factors for awarding long-term spousal support are the following:
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage;
- Earning capacity of both spouses;
- Financial recourses of each spouse;
- The age and health of both spouses;
- Parental responsibilities of both parents;
- Whether the asking spouse needs financial support;
- Whether an asking spouse can't physically obtain employment;
- Whether asking spouse can maintain employment;
- Whether the asking spouse can maintain their marital standard of living while getting an education or training to support themselves;
- Whether the asking spouse gave up a career to raise the kids;
- Whether the paying spouse has the financial ability to pay it;
- Both spouse's financial assets and debts;
- Both spouse's contributions to the marriage;
- Whether there is valid evidence of domestic violence;
- Any other relevant factors considered equitable by the court.
After a family court judge has determined that permanent spousal support is warranted, they must decide on payment duration. There are advantages and disadvantages to paying and receiving lump sum spousal support.
What About the Length of the Marriage?
The length of the marriage is the most common factor considered to decide the duration of a spousal support order.
Suppose the marriage was less than ten years. In that case, a judge will typically award alimony for half the length of the marriage. Suppose the marriage lasted longer than ten years. In that case, a judge can decide on more extended alimony payments.
A California family court judge can technically award spousal support for long-term periods and even a spouse's lifetime. However, this is rare and only occurs in extreme and limited situations. It's much more common for an alimony award to have an end date.
Can Permanent Alimony Be Modified?
Yes. The court could modify permanent spousal support if the paying spouse shows a substantial change in circumstances since the existing order, such as cohabitation with a romantic partner. Dating someone after divorce will not generally have any impact on spousal support payments.
However, a family court will keep an already approved mutual agreement between the spouses. That's not usually their business, and they won't get involved. Further, an alimony award for a specific period can't be modified or extended after it expires.
Just to let you know, spouses receiving support must become self-supporting within a reasonable time. A Gavron warning is a relevant court notice given to spouses before any modification or termination of alimony.
Can Permanent Alimony Be Terminated?
Yes. Permanent spousal support can be terminated after there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances, such as the following:
- The death of the receiving spouse;
- Receiving spouse gets remarried;
- Paying spouse is over the age of 65 and retiring;
- Paying spouse's ill heath prevents making payments;
- Substantial change to paying spouse's income.
Suppose you need more information about the possibility of modifying or terminating spousal support in California. In that case, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer to look over the case details.
If you qualify for a modification or termination of your spousal support obligation, you can contact our skilled Los Angeles spousal support attorneys today.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney in California
There are no strict rules and legal definitions for determining the amount of a spousal support award in California. Judges will decide the amount, if any, on a case-by-case basis.
As noted above, the marital standard of living is used as a basic guideline, along with a spouse's income. The alimony amount can vary widely from a few hundred to several thousand dollars monthly in cases of high-net-worth individuals. If there has been a change in circumstances, it may be possible to modify a spousal support order.
Also, as noted, if the receiving spouse decides to get remarried, finds employment, or if there is another change in circumstance, then the paying spouse might be able to terminate spousal support payments.
You can contact a family lawyer to learn more about spousal support in your divorce case. You could negotiate a lump sum alimony payment or agree to a settlement through the property division process.
Whether you are dealing with temporary or permanent spousal support issues, we can help you. There usually are several options for negotiating alimony with your soon-to-be former spouse.
We offer a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County.