Post-divorce finances are a major concern for Santa Clara County couples going through a marital breakup. You may have enjoyed a certain lifestyle while married that you want to maintain after divorce. The concerns are particularly acute when there is a large income disparity between the spouses. In such situations, California law may require one spouse to financially support the other during the divorce process and/or after the divorce is over. Courts refer to this as spousal support, and you may also hear it referred to as alimony; spousal support and alimony are the same thing, alimony being an older and mostly outdated term.
What Is the Purpose of Spousal Support?
Spousal support or alimony is meant to make the transition from married to single life easier for the lower-earning spouse. It is meant to prevent a non-working or low-earning spouse from falling into a precarious financial situation after divorce. While most people in the Mountain View area understand the need for alimony to exist in some cases, that does not mean the issue is simple. In fact, spousal support can be one of the most contentious issues in any Silicon Valley divorce.
Spousal Support Is Not Automatic
California courts do not automatically award spousal support. Instead, the party seeking support must petition the court. If you are seeking support, you will be expected to introduce evidence as to why you need support, how much you need, and for how long. If you are the party who may obligated to pay, you will have the opportunity to present your arguments as well.
Types of Spousal Support/Alimony in California
If spousal support is likely to be an issue in your Mountain View divorce, your attorney will help you understand all the different possible scenarios for payments under California law. At a basic level, the possibilities include the following:
- Temporary spousal support: Sometimes called alimony pendente lite, this is financial support paid by one spouse while the divorce case is ongoing. If the court awards temporary support, it usually begins on the date it was requested and continues until a final divorce order is entered.
- Permanent spousal support: This label can be misleading, because spousal support awards are almost never permanent. Instead, “permanent” support means the amount of support awarded at the end of the divorce process. There is no set duration for how long payments will last. Generally speaking, if your marriage lasted less than 10 years, alimony may be paid for about half the length of the marriage. For marriages that were longer than 10 years, the court usually does not set an expiration date on alimony; instead, at a future time, the paying party will need to petition the court to end payments, with evidence that the payments are no longer necessary.
- Rehabilitative spousal support: This very common form of support is paid by the higher-earning spouse while the lower earner obtains the education, skills or training needed to become self-sustaining.
- Reimbursement spousal support: This type of support is unique to California. It be requested by a spouse who helped finance the other spouse’s education or career advancement during marriage. It is a way for the financing spouse to recoup some of the investment he/she made in the other spouse’s career.
- Lump sum spousal support: Occasionally, one spouse may decide he/she does not want any property from the marriage. In this case, the judge may order the other spouse to a one-time, lump-sum payment rather than split the marital assets.
How Judges Calculate Spousal Support
There is no rigid formula for calculating support. Rather, judges are given broad discretion to determine an amount that seems appropriate in each case. Judges are required by law to consider many factors when making a spouse support determination. Some of the most important factors are the length of the marriage, the earning power of each spouse, the standard of living during marriage, and the ages of the parties. The California Courts website offers in-depth details on this topic.
Modifying and Terminating Spousal Support
Changes in circumstances can necessitate changes to spousal support payments. For example, if the paying spouse loses his/her job, the payments may need to be drastically reduced. Modifying support orders is notoriously difficult, but our attorneys have a strong record of success in doing so. We also help clients seek termination of spousal support, for example, when the recipient spouse gets a good job and no longer has a genuine need to receive support.
Contact Our Mountain View Alimony and Spousal Support Attorneys
The attorneys at the Mountain View office of Kaspar & Lugay, LLP has extensive legal and financial experience to help protect your lifestyle during and after divorce. Whether you are obligated to pay or are entitled to receive payments, we will work to ensure that you are treated fairly. Call 415-650-1322 or contact us online to speak with our Santa Clara County law firm.