What is Alimony in California?

Alimony in California

What is Alimony in California?

Alimony is one of the issues couples have to settle after getting a divorce or separation. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is the financial aid the higher-income spouse gives to the lower-income spouse. This is to allow the lower-income spouse to be able to adapt to a new single-income household as opposed to the two-income household both parties have just walked away from.

The dissolution of marriage and legal separation are very arduous processes that involve the settling of different issues including alimony, child custody, child support, visitation rights, and the distribution of marital property and community property. If you are going through a divorce, it is best to get legal help from a family law attorney to be able to gain divorce information to better understand the divorce procedure and necessary divorce paperwork.

Types of Spousal Support in California

There are many different types of spousal support in California, each depending on the case and purpose.

Temporary Support

Temporary support is temporary in that it only spans the time of the divorce process. Temporary support only aids the lower-income spouse with living expenses while the divorce is ongoing and ends on the day the judge finalizes the divorce.

Rehabilitative Support

Alimony in California Rehabilitative support applies when one of the spouses is the breadwinner of the family while the other stays at home and does most of the housework including caring for children and maintaining the family home.

This is the most common type of alimony and aims to give the lower-income spouse the time and opportunity to be able to make himself more employable by acquiring education, experience, and other valuable job skills to enter the workforce.

Permanent Support

In contrast, permanent support is the rarest type of support and usually only applies to spouses who have been married for 10 or more years and where one spouse can no longer work because of old age or other incapacities.

Reimbursement Support

California is unique as a state in that it offers spousal support in the form of reimbursement support. This is for cases where one spouse financially supported the other in career advancement or education. When the couple was married, these would have benefitted both parties, but now that they have separated, it only serves one of them.

The state thinks that it is not fair for only one of them to benefit when the other spouse helped him get these qualifications, so the state thinks that the spouse with the qualifications should give support to the spouse that helped him achieve these qualifications in the first place.

Spousal support and alimony is a big part of the divorce settlement agreement and depends on the divorce decree that varies from state to state. Be sure to consult with an Orange County, California divorce attorney to gain legal advice on what you are entitled to according to your legal rights in your divorce settlements in your local jurisdiction.

How is Alimony Determined by the Court?

Alimony can be requested by either spouse, regardless of gender. The basic requirement for it is that one spouse needs support and the other can provide support. If this does not apply to the couple in any way, spousal support will not be awarded by the divorce court.

Some of the more notable factors that the court will take into consideration when evaluating spousal support are the following:

  • The supported spouse’s ability to become employed without interfering with the care of the parties’ minor children,
  • The earning capacity of each spouse,
  • The degree of aid given by one spouse to the other to obtain a degree or professional license while they were married,
  • The ability of the paying spouse to pay alimony based on earning capacity, living standards, income, and assets,
  • The needs of each spouse based on the standard of living while married,
  • Assets and debts of each spouse, taking into account separate property,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  • Health and age of each spouse,
  • Any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse,
  • History of domestic violence against spouse or children,
  • Balance of hardships to the divorcing parties,
  • Tax consequences on each party,
  • The goal of allowing the receiving spouse to be independent and self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time,
  • Any other factors deemed relevant by the court (CA FAM §4320).

The factors listed above are only some taken into account to ensure the equitable division of property. Each divorce case can then be very different from other divorce cases, depending on the factors involved. So when filing for divorce, be sure to contact a divorce lawyer to help you.

Our divorce lawyers at Trevino Law, Inc. an Orange County, CA family law law firm, are knowledgeable of divorce law and can help you file for divorce and negotiate an equitable distribution of the marital finances.

Duration of Spousal Support

The duration of spousal support depends on the type of spousal support that is granted. Temporary support can start on the day of filing divorce but ends when the judge has finalized the divorce. Being granted temporary alimony doesn’t also guarantee being awarded any other type of spousal support.

The duration of the other types of alimony will depend on the factors listed above. The judge will consider all these factors, and upon his discretion, set a certain time period for which alimony of a certain amount will be paid.

Generally, rehabilitative alimony only lasts until the receiving spouse can gain qualifications through training to enter the workforce. Rehabilitative and permanent spousal support both end if either of the parties dies or if the supported spouse remarries.

Modification of Spousal Support

After the separation and divorce, the circumstances of the parties may have changed. In this case, either party can petition the court to modify or completely terminate the arrangement of the spousal support. The payor can ask for the termination of the support if he becomes ill and can no longer make payments.

Support can also be terminated if the supported spouse is found to have not been making the necessary effort to become self-supporting or upon the supported spouse’s remarriage.

Payment of Alimony

Along with the amount, the court also determines the payment schedule after divorce. In general, there are two ways alimony can be paid: in a lump sum or periodic payments.

The court will usually require the paying spouse to make periodic payments. This will be deducted from the paying spouse’s employee’s paycheck via a court order. The advantage of periodic payments is that either party can petition for the amount to be adjusted later on.

Alternatively, in cases where the paying spouse has a significant amount of separate property, the court may allow him to pay alimony in a lump sum. This may be advantageous for both divorced parties in that it may be more convenient for the paying spouse to pay it all in one go and the receiving spouse will not have to worry about failed payments either. However, lump-sum alimony poses the disadvantage of not being adjustable at a later time.

Taxes and Alimony

Since December 31, 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed alimony payments as a form of tax deduction in the income reporting requirements. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has also removed alimony as a form of income for the receiving spouse.

However, alimony must still be listed as an income and may be listed as a deduction for state tax returns. Taxes have always been a very complicated aspect of the law so it is best to consult with an attorney familiar with the matter.

If you have any more questions on getting divorced including the grounds for divorce, marital settlement agreement, and divorce papers, don’t hesitate to contact a divorce attorney at Trevino Law, Inc. Our divorce attorneys are trained in the divorce laws and can help you with divorce issues including negotiating property division and fighting for legal custody.

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