Spousal Support After Divorce In California

Spousal support, also known as alimony, comes in different forms (Temporary Spousal Support and Permanent Spousal Support) and can be ordered for different reasons under the California Family Code. Whether you are seeking support, or potentially paying spousal support, it is important to know your rights under the law. An experienced Solana Beach spousal support lawyer can help you navigate this often complex topic.

Immediate issues in most cases focus on how much support will be paid to a non-working spouse. Income will not be imputed to the non-working spouse at the Temporary Spousal Support hearing. Income may be imputed to the non-working spouse at the Permanent Spousal Support hearing. This process is complicated and requires expert testimony. You need an experienced Solana Beach spousal support attorney to help you with this process and we handle such matters on a regular basis. We are also experience in negotiating settlements that meet the needs of all parties: allowing the non-working spouse to either not work or work part time.

At Ratzer|Dobis in Solana Beach, we can help you through the alimony process. An experienced lawyer from our firm will review your case to determine how much alimony should be and how long it should last. We fight for our clients to get the best possible outcome for their situation through Solana Beach mediation and, if necessary, litigation. We will use our experience to deliver quick results so you can move on with your life with confidence and security.

When Is Spousal Support Required in California?

Spousal support is a requirement in a divorce case when one spouse needs financial assistance to transition from a two-income household to one. Spousal support orders are decided on a case-by-case basis. A judge will look at many factors to determine if spousal support is required, including the marketable skills of the supported party, each party’s earning capacity and the standard of living established during the marriage.

For longer marriages, spousal support may be required for longer than shorter marriages. In general, marriages that lasted 10 years or longer will make the supported party eligible to receive spousal support longer. Although each case is unique, a permanent alimony award in California for a marriage under 10 years typically lasts about half the length of the marriage. When married for longer than 10 years, the judge may leave the order open-ended, with no specific end date.

How Is Alimony Determined?

In California, multiple factors are taken into consideration when determining spousal support. Does the spouse have the ability to support herself or himself? What are each of the spouses earning abilities and what was each spouse’s standard of living during the marriage? These factors are all considered along with the age and health of each spouse and the length of the marriage.

For spouses who are seeking support, and those who may have to pay it, understanding your rights is critical. An experienced family law attorney at Ratzer|Dobis will review the circumstances of your marriage to see if alimony is appropriate in your case. We will pursue the strategy that is best for you.

Is Earning Capacity Considered When Deciding Spousal Support?

Earning capacity is the amount of money a person has the potential to earn based on his or her education, skills and job experience. The courts can review both spouses’ earning capacities to determine a final amount of spousal support. However, whether or not the courts use earning capacity depends on the facts of the individual case.

If a wife is working at 80 percent capacity instead of 100 percent, for example, the courts will decide whether to use the 80 percent or the 100 percent in its spousal support calculation. In a case where the wife could reasonably increase her hours while still taking care of the children, the courts may use 100 percent earning capacity to calculate a support order. If, however, it would be unreasonable to expect her to work at 100 percent capacity, the courts may use her current hours.

According to state law, a spouse can only be required to work a reasonable work regimen. The courts will determine what this looks like based on an average day in the person’s field or industry. If the courts believe that the party has the power to work for a greater amount of money or more hours, it may use earning capacity rather than actual earnings. Each case is unique.

If I Haven’t Worked in Some Time, Will That Be Considered?

If it has been years since you worked in your field, this will be taken into consideration for your spousal support arrangement. Being out of work could make it more difficult for you to find a job. You may require new education or job training before you can go back to work. The courts will consider this when determining the amount and length of alimony.

In California, the law requires the party receiving the spousal support payment to make a good-faith effort to financially support him or herself. Even if you have not worked in years, you will have a legal obligation as the recipient to do your best to obtain a job. If you need additional training or education, this can become part of your alimony arrangement. However, you cannot use the fact that you have not worked in some time as an excuse not to look for a job.

What If I Don’t Have Many Professional Skills?

If you do not have many professional skills, the courts may consider this when determining alimony. If you do not have professional skills because you chose not to work, the courts may not require your spouse to pay alimony, since you reasonably could have had a job during the marriage. If, however, you gave up work to raise a family or take care of the household, this will qualify you for alimony, in most cases.

The courts in California may allow you a grace period in which your former spouse will pay alimony while you obtain the job training or experience you need to earn a living. The courts will give you a reasonable amount of time to gain the professional skills necessary to find a job. The courts will also check if you are making a good-faith attempt to get a job. If you are, the courts may extend the alimony order. Otherwise, the courts may no longer require your ex-spouse to support you.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony?

When many people hear the term “alimony,” they think of situations in which payments are made permanently from one spouse to the other. However, there are various types of alimony that could be awarded in California. This could include:

  • Temporary Alimony, which may be ordered paid to one spouse only while the divorce is ongoing. This type of alimony could stop when the divorce is finalized, or it could be transitioned into another type of alimony.
  • Permanent Alimony payments are made long-term to the spouse of lesser means. These payments are typically ordered for marriages that were longer in duration and when the spouse of lesser means may not have an opportunity to become self-sustaining (due to age, disability, etc.). Permanent alimony payments are typically made monthly over extended periods of time. They typically do not end unless one spouse does or unless the receiving spouse remarries.

Can You Make Modifications to Alimony in San Diego?

There may be various reasons why spousal modifications are necessary to monthly alimony payments. The lives of both spouses will undoubtedly change in the aftermath of a divorce. Various reasons why a modification may be necessary can include:

  • the paying spouse loses a job or is demoted and can no longer afford the payments.
  • the paying spouse receives a pay raise, and the receiving spouse wishes to receive more.
  • the receiving spouse becomes self-sustaining.
  • the receiving spouse enters into a relationship with another person who provides support.
  • What if one spouse stops paying alimony?

Spousal maintenance payments are court orders. The paying spouse cannot simply decide to stop making payments, even if they believe that they should not be paying them anymore. Without a modification from the California court system, failing to pay spousal maintenance could result in legal trouble. If your former spouse stops making court-ordered alimony payments, you need to take them to court for a contempt proceeding.

A spouse who fails to pay the required alimony could result and their wages being garnished and given to the receiving spouse through the court system. The court can also levy the paying spouse’s bank accounts or intercept their tax returns in order to get the required payment amounts.

What If Your Former Spouse Is Living With Another Person?

Typically, permanent alimony ends if the receiving spouse remarries. However, there are times when a receiving spouse may move in with somebody else but not get married in order to avoid alimony payments being ended. In cases where the paying spouse believes that the receiving spouse is in a relationship with somebody else but is avoiding marriage, they will need to file a motion with the courts to have payments modified or stopped. The court will consider the receiving spouse’s current financial circumstances when determining whether or not to end alimony payments. In these cases, it can be difficult to prove that the receiving spouse is in a romantic relationship with the person they are cohabiting with.

What You Can Do Now

Contact the knowledgeable legal team at Ratzer|Dobis for help with your spousal support case. We are experienced negotiators who will fight for your rights. Please give us a call at (858) 793-7700 to schedule a consultation with one of our Solana Beach spousal support lawyers. We proudly serve clients throughout San Diego County and beyond.


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