Divorce is a difficult process to navigate. During every divorce, a couple should consider spousal support or alimony after they end their marriage. California courts use a formula to calculate how much, if at all, the higher income-earning spouse owes the other spouse. Spousal support can be considered using a number of factors that take into account the ability of one spouse to pay a specified amount of financial support to the other spouse. This article will provide more information on California spousal support laws.

Alimony may be ordered for a number of reasons. Sometimes the spouse can order alimony to maintain their pre-divorce lifestyle or to allow the spouse sufficient time to be able to gain financial independence. Depending on the situation, different forms of alimony can be awarded.

The most common types of alimony are rehabilitative alimony, lump-sum alimony, and permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is usually offered when one spouse has given up their career in order to raise their family.

Lump-sum alimony is when a spouse receives a one time payment of support and usually a property settlement is included as well. It is important for a receiving spouse to realize that there will be no additional financial support after the lump-sum payment is made. In other words, once the lump sum payment is made, no other support comes in.

Another type of alimony is called reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony is awarded to the receiving spouse who worked full time or took on domestic duties to allow the paying spouse to complete their education. This type of alimony is only awarded for the time that the entitled spouse gave support for. Once a spouse is recovered from their lack of financial support the alimony is generally terminated.

Alimony payments in California may be permanent or temporary. When alimony is permanent it means that the alimony is paid until a final or life changing event occurs, such as the death or remarriage of the spouse. Temporary spousal support is paid when the couples separate but the divorce is not final.

The 10-Year Rule in California

When awarding spousal support in California a 10-year rule is applied. The 10-year rule states that the duration of spousal support,alimony laws in California use a 10-year rule where the courts will only award permanent spousal support to those marriages that lasted for 10 years or more. From a policy standpoint this rule is in place to discourage marriage with the motivation to acquire spousal support upon divorce. As a general rule, courts do not like to award permanent spousal support. Instead, California courts want former spouses to become self-supporting. There is an exception, where a spouse is to elderly or disabled.

If a marriage lasts less than 10 years, spousal support will be awarded for half the length of the marriage. This means if spouse A is married to spouse B for 5 years and spouse B is awarded spousal support by the california courts. Spouse B will be awarded to spouse B for 2.5 years.

Even with the 10-year rule, courts allow former spouses to set their own termination dates for spousal support and they can request for modifications if they need an adjustment for their agreement .

How is Alimony Calculated in California?

Once the court makes a final decision that one spouse is entitled to support, the court will try to analyze that need by considering many factors These factors include:

  • The total income of each spouse
  • The age of each spouse
  • Marketable skill of the supported spouse
  • Job prospects for the supported spouse
  • The amount of support that the previous spouse provided while in school or training
  • Each spouse’s, past income, future income, and total assets
  • History of a criminal record
  • Motivation or goals of the supported spouse to be employed and self-supporting
  • Whether property is being divided in the divorce and by which method, that property is being divided
  • The quality of lifestyle while the marriage was going on and the dependent spouse’s ability to maintain that standard in the absence of support
  • Each spouse’s individual income (states define “income” differently, with some including unearned income and others limiting the definition more strictly)
  • The total length of the marriage, which is more important in deciding how long support will last than in determining the total amount of spousal support.
  • Whether the spouses lived together before they were married and whether any part of their lifestyle should be included in the length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s mental and physical health
  • The needs of the children, and whether domestic responsibilities affect the dependent spouse’s ability to return to work
  • Whether either dependent spouse left the workforce to be a homemaker or raise children
  • How long the dependent spouse has been unemployed and that spouse’s marketable skills
  • Domestic contributions that either spouse made to the other’s training, education, or career advancement
  • The possibility that either spouse may acquire future assets like, the maturing of stock options or any assets that come from being the beneficiary of of a will
  • Any other factors not listed above, that the court decides are relevant

In California, some courts hold a rule called the Santa Clara Guideline. The Santa Clara Guideline is a commonly used formula for use in temporary spousal support in California. This Santa Clara Guideline states that paying spouse’s support is 40% of his or her total net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

For example, if spouse A and spouse B get a divorce and spouse A makes 10 thousand per month, and Spouse B is entitled to receive spousal support, spouse B would get 4 thousand per month minus whatever spouse B’s monthly net income is. This guideline serves as yet another calculation of spousal support within the California courts.

Although California courts use a formula to calculate the amount of spousal support owed, another option is an arbitration where both spouses agreed to a negotiated settlement.

Tax Consequences

Sometimes spousal support can affect your taxes. Moreover, depending on how you draft your spousal support agreement, each spouse may be able to obtain an additional tax benefit or tax exemption. However, this depends on the type of support you are entitled to. For example, periodic spousal support payments are tax deductible, while lump sum payments are not. Therefore, a lawyer can help you work out different methods, to help you save money in some other method.

Consulting an Attorney

Family law issues can be long,complex and constantly changing. Although you can represent yourself in a court of law (pro se). The best option is to find and hire a family lawyer. A family lawyer can help you by correctly organizing all the necessary documents you will need in order to receive alimony or spousal support.

When filing for spousal support, reporting your income, earnings and the value of your total assets, are often difficult to organize. A family lawyer will make this task easier on you and draft a well thought out agreement with your best interests in mind. Finally, a family lawyer will represent you adequately in the courtroom if necessary.