Los Angeles Spousal Support Lawyer
If you are going through a divorce in Los Angeles, you might have questions about paying or receiving spousal support. If you need information, call our spousal support attorneys. We know all the factors that are considered by the Los Angeles family law courts on whether to award spousal support, which is commonly called "alimony."
When a couple is divorced or legally separated in Los Angeles, a family court might order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of monthly payment. A spouse can ask the court for spousal support in cases of an annulment, divorce, legal separation, or a domestic violence restraining order.
While the case is pending, the payments are made under a temporary spousal support order. However, after the divorce has been finalized, the order can be changed to a long-term spousal support order.
If you are a spouse seeking alimony, you will need an attorney to help you understand the laws. If you are a spouse being asked to pay spousal support, we need to review your case to ensure you do not pay more than required under the law. When two people are married, they establish a standard of living that is generally based on their household income.
In some cases, one spouse may contribute significantly more to that income than the other while the other spouse manages the household or engages in full-time child care.
In these circumstances, it is often the case that the lesser-earning spouse made the conscious decision to forgo pursuing a career or actively supported the higher-earning spouse when they were attending school or otherwise developing skills to provide financially for the family.
California courts often award spousal support to spouses with less income to allow them to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. Alternatively, spouses may come to an agreement regarding spousal support on their own, or it may be controlled by the terms of a prenuptial agreement.
It should be noted that spousal support payments are not designed to last indefinitely. The judge could issue a Gavron warning, which gives you notice you must make an effort to become financially independent. If entitled, you may be able to get spousal support while the divorce is pending.
For someone going through a divorce, it is important to be aware that judges have broad discretion to award spousal support under California law and may even choose to ignore a prenuptial agreement with regard to support if they find the terms unconscionable.
You could even choose arbitration, which is less expensive and can be an excellent option to avoid a costly legal battle in front of a judge. It also keeps the specific details of your separation private. The California Courts provide a self-help guide on spousal support.
You need to understand the difference between temporary and permanent spousal support. For this reason, it is critical for anyone seeking spousal support or wishing to minimize the amount they must pay to retain a skilled Los Angeles divorce attorney as soon as possible.
How Much Are Monthly Alimony Payments?
Many family court judges in Los Angeles use a standard formula to calculate the amount of temporary spousal support. However, a judge might refrain from using this formula when making a final spousal support order.
Instead, they are required to consider all the factors defined under California Family Code 4320, which includes the following:
- length of the marriage;
- earning capacity of both spouses;
- needs to be based on the standard of living during the marriage;
- contributions made toward the standard of living;
- what each spouse can afford to pay to maintain the standard of living;
- whether working full-time would interfere with child care;
- the age of each spouse;
- the health of each spouse;
- joint and personal debts;
- property of each spouse;
- if one spouse helped the other obtain an education or career;
- if one spouse gave up a career to raise the children;
- if a spouse's career was impacted by unemployment;
- if the relationship involved domestic violence;
- federal and state tax impact of spousal support.
Some of these factors have specific issues that a judge will consider. For example, for a marriage of fewer than ten years, spousal support will typically be awarded for half the duration.
This is because the purpose of spousal support is to give the lesser-earning spouse time to get to the point where they can be self-sufficient. High-net-worth spousal support is based on different factors. There are advantages and disadvantages to paying and receiving lump sum spousal support.
The duration of the marriage is defined as the date of the marriage to the date of separation. A judge may consider any periods of separation that occurred previously in the marriage. Importantly, in long-term marriages, ten years or longer, a judge may not set an end date when making a spousal support order. If there has been a change in circumstances, it may be possible to modify a spousal support order.
How Long Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support?
If a marriage lasts for less than ten years, spousal support is presumed to be required for at most half the length of the marriage.
Suppose a marriage that lasts ten years or more. In that case, it will be considered a long-duration marriage, and the judge might not set a spousal support termination date. However, this does not automatically mean the receiving spouse will receive long-term support.
Further, the paying spouse can retire at 65 and can't be forced to work after reaching this age to pay support to a former spouse. Suppose the paying spouse is forced to take early retirement. In that case, they could ask the court to terminate alimony payments.
Suppose your former spouse gets remarried. In that case, spousal support payments can be terminated unless there is a prior agreement.
Suppose your former spouse is intentionally avoiding work not to pay alimony. In that case, you can't force them to get a job but could ask the court to lower their support payments if they are not trying to find employment.
Suppose you can prove your former spouse is deliberately unemployed. In that case, the court might impute income based on what they could earn and then set your support on that imputed income, but it would be a lower amount.
Suppose my former spouse is living with a new romantic partner. In that case, if you can prove they are cohabitating, you can ask the court to lower or terminate spousal support.
How Can You Modify Spousal Support in California?
Suppose you now make less income due to job loss or reduced hours. If your financial situation changes, you can ask the court to modify your spousal support obligation.
You should make this request as soon as your situation changes because any modification to pay alimony will start when you file a request asking for a change, not the date your financial situation changed.
Suppose your former spouse can become self-supporting. In that case, you can ask the court to terminate long-term support.
California law recognizes that circumstances change, allowing either party to a spousal support order to request a change in that order unless the parties have agreed to the contrary. To have a spousal support order changed, the party seeking the change needs to show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the order was imposed.
This means that a slight or temporary change in circumstances will typically not justify modifying a support order. Some examples of changes that may justify a modification include the following:
- job loss;
- significant raise;
- health issues;
It is essential to understand that judges have significant discretion when deciding whether to modify an existing spousal support order and that both parties can present evidence supporting their case. It might be possible to terminate spousal support payments. Dating someone after divorce will not generally impact spousal support payments.
An attorney can significantly help develop and present your case to the judge in a way they will respond to. In some cases, a subpoena may be needed. For this reason, anyone seeking to modify a support order should retain a lawyer as soon as possible.
Suppose my former spouse committed adultery during our marriage. California is a “no-fault” state in divorce. This means a family court in Los Angeles will not even consider cheating by either spouse when deciding to award spousal support. Notably, as mentioned, domestic violence is a factor in awarding alimony.
Contact a Spousal Support Attorney in Los Angeles
Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation if you have questions about spousal support. Our experienced Los Angeles spousal support attorneys can review your situation and determine the best strategy.
However, spousal support issues can become complex and require skilled legal representation. In addition, spousal support has the potential to have a significant impact on your financial well-being, whether you are the party paying or receiving it.
If you would like to schedule a free consultation with one of our divorce lawyers, please call our law firm today at 818-528-3471 or contact us online. Furman & Zavatsky are located in Los Angeles County.