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Spousal Support & Alimony Frequently Asked Questions

Learn How CA Law Dictates Spousal Support

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Which party generally pays spousal support in a divorce?

In California, they determine who the supporting and supported party is. It does not matter whether you are a male or female, the court determines whom the supporting party is by the person who makes the most income. Once they have determined that, then they can determine the amount.

Is alimony or spousal support always awarded in a divorce case?

No, alimony or spousal support is not always awarded a divorce case. In California, we look at the incomes of the given individuals. Usually, when you have two parties making similar incomes, spousal support will not be awarded, but oftentimes you will see that one party has earned more than the other has. When one party earns substantially more, the court will order spousal support to be paid by the supporting party to the supported party.

When does alimony or spousal support actually begin?

Spousal support starts upon the award of the first temporary spousal support court order. The courts gain jurisdiction when the parties file the first request for spousal support. The court can order spousal support to be paid retroactively up until the filing of the original petition for the dissolution of marriage. Therefore, once that court has that issue, they can make that spousal support award. The court has the discretion to award it at any time from the time that the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed up until any date on, or about the hearing date that the spousal support request for an order is heard for the first time. Parties can get spousal support during a period of separation. They do need to file for that. It is always better to file earlier rather than later. If you are seeking spousal support, the court will have the ability to award you spousal support even retroactively.

How long does spousal support typically last?

The court usually looks at the term of marriage and decides how long spousal support will last. If it is over ten years, permanent spousal support is usually awarded. That means there is no definitive date in which the court will terminate spousal support.

You may wish to consider a Gavron warning. Gavron warnings are court-issued warnings that alert the spouse receiving spousal support payments that they should soon prepare to become self-supporting. In short, the spouse should make substantial efforts to become self-supportive. Otherwise, the courts can decide to terminate spousal support.

That is one important element to observe when you are determining spousal support, and receiving orders whether those are temporary or permanent orders. If this is a statutory long-term marriage, you could well indeed pay spousal support indefinitely until the death of either party or the remarriage of the supported party. However, in shorter term marriages, the courts will often make that a determinant date that the support does end. For instance, if it were a four-year marriage, you often see a permanent spousal support award of two years. That includes the temporary spousal support period that you are in.

Can the amount of the spousal support award ever be changed?

There are different times when spousal support can be changed. One is temporary spousal support. When there is a change, if a party loses a job, has a change in income, or another party gets a job and this is before the date of trial, you can file a request for an order, and ask for a change in spousal support based on these new circumstances. The court will make those determinations if it is before trial. It will be based on those temporary situations, and it will be based on the Santa Clara Temporary support spousal guidelines in most counties. Other counties have similar codes, but different calculations in determining temporary spousal support.

Once you go to trial and have a permanent spousal support order that is based on the Family code Section 4320 factor, and then the courts find that there was a change in circumstance and that change of circumstances can vary. If a party loses their job or is in an accident that affects their income, if one party gains employment that pays substantially more, these can factor changes in the circumstances. Additionally, retirement is a change in circumstances that will quite often affect a change in spousal support, but once it is a permanent spousal support award, it is important to note that you have to prove change in circumstances before you can get in to argue the case, and show the court what those new and changed circumstances are.

Quite often we will see that folks are not following the Gavron warning, and will bring in a request order based on the fact that the supported party is not making good faith attempts to become self-supporting, and had the opportunity to do so. This is why it is very important to work with a great attorney who understands the situation and can present your case in court in order to save you a substantial amount of spousal support, or help you retain that spousal support amount if someone is trying to attempt to terminate your spousal support.

If one of the spouses commits adultery does it affect alimony or spousal support in California?

No, adultery has no bearing with alimony or spousal support. California is a no-fault divorce state. It does not matter who did what to whom. No matter whether it is adultery, or any other circumstances, the only cause for divorce in California is irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity. Spousal support does not consider those factors either, only the temporary spousal support award or the permanent award of spousal support applies.

What are my rights if my ex fails to pay my spousal support?

When an ex-spouse has not paid spousal support, there are different remedies that a party can take in order to get relief. The party should look at a wage assignment, additionally; one can go back to court and ask for attorney fees, and costs, as well as the spousal support arrears that are owed in the matter. It is important to consult with counsel, look at all the options, and understand what the facts are, so you can get maximum results when addressing the issue of ones’ party’s lack of paying spousal support.

Additional Information About Spousal Support in California

It is very important that people understand income. They need to correctly categorize income in order to maximize results before heading into court on either a temporary or permanent spousal support award hearing. Income should not be confused with assets as well. Special expenses will get special treatment in California. A person should carefully look at their healthcare, healthcare insurance, healthcare expenses, property taxes, what the other party is paying for property taxes as well as mandatory retirement contributions, and how their particular situation is taxed. These factors all come into play whether it is temporary spousal support or permanent award of spousal support. Understanding income and knowing how to present that to court will certainly maximize someone’s results when seeking an award of spousal support from the California Superior Court.

If you have more questions regarding a family law matter, contact the Law Offices of William Ausman.

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