Frequently Asked Questions: Spousal Support

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What is Spousal Support

Spousal support, commonly called alimony, is not automatic under California law . Conflicts may surface related to need and what amount is fair and reasonable in a given set of circumstances. It consists of monthly payments by a working spouse to help a dependent spouse become self-sufficient after a period of unemployment or under-employment during the marriage.

What factors are considered in determining spousal support

The process to determine spousal support involves more than a simple mathematical equation. If the parties are unable to settle their differences, the court will look at many different pieces of your lives and past relationship together:

  • The salary of each party
  • Whether the supporting party is able to pay spousal support
  • Length of marriage
  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Documented history of domestic violence, if any
  • Whether or not working will interfere with caring for dependent children

 However, the court will usually determine temporary alimony owed to a spouse based on a simple formula: 

50% of Paying Spouse’s Net Income – 40% of Supported Spouse’s Net Income = Temporary Alimony

For example, courts in California may depend on a formula to decide how much alimony a spouse must pay through the course of a divorce hearing. This formula will form the base payment, but it is subject to change by the courts. Your attorney can argue to raise or lower the base payment by demonstrating that the calculation does not match your specific divorce situation.

What types of spousal support Are There

California law recognizes alimony in two forms: permanent and temporary. Temporary spousal support is available before the divorce becomes final to maintain the status quo while the case remains in family court. Permanent spousal support can be agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court, but it is important to get it right at the time of divorce.

What can be done to modify Spousal Support

For as long as the court has jurisdiction, either party may conclude that due to changing circumstances deserve the alimony to be modified (either to raise or lower it). Changing circumstances could well include a severe loss of income for the paying spouse, or due to different living arrangements. However, seeking a  post-dissolution modification  of spousal support can be very difficult. It would be up to your attorney to help you present your case for modified alimony. One potential caveat: your alimony modification may not be allowed if both spouses have already agreed prior (either in writing or in oral agreement before a judge) not to leave alimony open to modification. If that isn’t the case, here are a few reasons your spousal support could be modified:

  • Loss of income
  • Change in lifestyle
  • Sudden increase in income
  • Child support modifications

can a working wife get alimony

In man cases, a working wife may be able to get spousal support (or, Alimony) from thier spouse, but like many legal questions in California, it depends on a number of factors. 

To be taken into consideration are issues like, but not exclusively, Earning gap between spouses currently; future potential earnings, based on historic careers and education; amount of time dedicated to raising children, if any; and many other factors.

If you’re wondering if you can/are entitled to receive spousal support from your spouse, you should consult with a California spousal support attorney (one who preferably has deep accounting and financial experience to ensure you obtain the best outcome).

does a husband have to support his wife during separation


how does alimony work in california (or, how is Spousal Support calculated in California)?

As answered above (though this is a variation on the question we commonly receive), the process to determine spousal support involves more than a simple mathematical equation. Sometimes people ask this question as: “What is alimony and What is Spousal Support Based On?”

If the parties are unable to settle their differences, the court will look at many different pieces of your lives and past relationship together:

  • The salary of each party
  • Whether the supporting party is able to pay spousal support
  • Length of marriage
  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Documented history of domestic violence, if any
  • Whether or not working will interfere with caring for dependent children

how long do you have to pay alimony?

How long were you married? How many children did you have? What type of lifestyle did you/your spouse live and become accustomed to? What types of assets or businesses were created during your marriage?

The answer to the question of ” How long do I have to pay alimony?” is an involved and meticulous calculation of many factors during a marriage. 

A California spousal support attorney will be able to answer your questions and help you achieve peace of mind.

How much is a wife entitled to in a divorce
how much is alimony in California?

The amount of spousal support, as has been noted above, to a spouse depends on myriad factors and extensive calculations. This is not the product of attorneys creating complexity, but rather the State of California’s attempts to ensure equitable division of assets and financial compensation based on length of marriage, earning potential, contributions to the household, etc. 

In many traditional cases, the wife is often the recipient of spousal support. But it is not exclusively so. Consider the Kelly Clarkson’s and Britney Spears of the world who are saddled with providing their ex spouse with financial consideration. Further, the rise of both LGBT marriages and also the LGBTQ divorces provide a counter to this type of consideration. 

Spousal support calculations are the result of many factors, and you should speak with a spousal support lawyer to walk you through the hurdles and complexities, to give you peace of mind.

How to avoid paying spousal support

We do not advocate for attempting to avoid or dodge the parameters set by the State of California, or any other jurisdiction, pertaining to spousal support calculations.

With that in mind, there are (and it seems to be constantly changing over the past few years) tax implications relating to spousal support that may factor into an alimony agreement. Further, there are additional items of note like prenuptial agreements or post-marriage agreements that may factor into future support. 

When it all boils down, and the emotions are taken out of consideration (which is difficult in these scenarios), we work with our clients to identify the fairest and most equitable division of assets and   spousal support payments, and we leverage our decades of experience to ensure your best outcome.

who pays alimony?

As stated above, if spousal support is to be paid by one party to another, there are many factors that go into the equation of who pays the support, and for how much, and for how long.

You may attempt to do this on your own, but having the experience we have, and seeing the many travesties that have resulted from emotion-driven agreements, it would be worth your while to schedule a free consultation with a qualified California spousal support attorney.

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