06 Jul Basic Facts About Spousal Support in California
What is often called alimony elsewhere is called spousal support in California. Spousal support is determined by a California family law court after a couple who has been living together as man and wife separate or become divorced.
Support is paid by the higher earning partner to the lower earning one in accordance with a complicated formula. The main purpose of the support payments is to maintain the financial status quo of both partners as it was when they were living together as a married couple until such time as the lower earning partner is able to sustain a reasonable standard of living independently, or when mutual agreement is made between the partners, or after a specific time period determined by the court.
It doesn’t matter who is the higher earning person in a relationship. It could be the wife or the husband who is judged to be the person who contributes spousal support.
Spousal support and common law marriages
California does not recognize common law marriage, so spousal support is not considered a requirement if a couple who are cohabiting in a common law marriage separate. This can be quite a headache for cohabiting couples. California courts may recognize a common law marriage only if the couple began their relationship in a state that recognizes such a marriage, for example Colorado. For the purposes of recognition, there must be adequate proof that such a relationship existed in a state that recognized it previously. This is where help from a family law attorney such as Damian Nolan can really make a difference.
The other possibility for a separating couple who were in a common law arrangement is that a one off payment known as a “palimony” may be recognized in place of normal spousal support.
Length of spousal support
Spousal support is expected to be paid regularly for a period which depends on a number of different factors. It depends partly on the length of the marriage, the ability of the lower earning partner to become independent at a later stage, agreement by both partners on cessation of payments and other factors.
Generally, if a marriage has lasted less than 10 years, the period of spousal support will be half of the length of the marriage. For example, if two people are married for six years, then seek a divorce, spousal support may be fixed at 3 years after divorce. In addition, there may be an amount that has to be paid during the time that divorce is being settled if the couple has already separated.
If the marriage has lasted more than 10 years, then the period may not be fixed by the court. It may be indefinite, but could be terminated or modified at some later stage depending on circumstances changing. Generally, the court encourages, but does not expect, that the recipient of the support payments should seek at some stage to become financially independent.
Spousal support will cease if the recipient remarries or one of the two people dies. If the recipient establishes a relationship with someone else but is not married, i.e. they are cohabiting, it might be considered sufficient to reduce or remove the requirement to provide spousal support.
Calculating the amount of spousal support
This is one of the most difficult aspects of spousal support to determine with any accuracy unless all the factors are taken into consideration. Generally, the amount is determined to be such that the recipient should enjoy a comparable financial status as when married. There are a lot of factors that are taken into consideration before a family law court makes a final decision about payments. For one, there may be an agreement between the two partners about payments or no payments, which may be acceptable by the court.
Note that spousal support is not the same as child support which is calculated separately.
Other factors that influence the amount of spousal support include:
- employability of the recipient;
- educational opportunities for the recipient;
- extent to which the recipient contributed t the financial status of the supporter;
- extent to which the recipient was unable to advance their employability because of their role as a parent;
- whether the recipient was abusive;
- how the supporter would be able in future to sustain payments.
How a family law attorney can help
Because of the complexity of spousal support rules and the way payments are calculated, it may be sensible to approach a family law attorney to help negotiate a settlement or act on your behalf if you think that a decision may be unfair. The Law Offices of Damian Nolan in Long Beach and Lakewood California are available for all family law matters. Phone today on 562-634-1115.