Spousal support can be a major source of tension for many divorcing or separating couples. Even for couples who hope to reach a peaceful agreement regarding spousal support, it is important to understand how spousal support (also known as alimony) works in the state of California and the factors that a judge will consider when issuing a spousal support order. Working with a Los Angeles spousal support attorney can be valuable when navigating spousal support and alimony. Their legal guidance can help ensure that you avoid common pitfalls and help potentially optimize the outcome of your case. To speak with an experienced Los Angeles alimony lawyer, consider contacting Diaz Law Firm at (626) 261-0402 today. Attorney Cheryl Deptowicz-Diaz prides herself on fighting for equality, justice, and peace, and strives to do her best for every client.
Are Spousal Support and Alimony the Same in California?
Spousal support refers to the financial assistance provided by an individual to their former spouse following a divorce or separation. This support is intended to help the lower-earning spouse maintain the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. It also recognizes the contributions of each person to their marriage. Spousal support and alimony are often used interchangeably and there is no difference between the terms. However, as set forth in Article 3 of the Family Code, “spousal support” is the formal legal term utilized in California.
What Is Covered Under California Spousal Support?
California spousal support is designed to help cover the monthly expenses of a lower-earning spouse after a marriage is terminated or legal separation has occurred. The intention of spousal support is to provide for the basic provisions that are required to help the ex-spouse live comfortably and recover financially. Under California law, there are two forms of spousal support:
- Temporary spousal support: Temporary spousal support includes payments made for a specified period of time. Temporary spousal support is most often paid until the ex-spouse can recover financially or until the end of the divorce proceedings. A judge may extend this form of spousal support if deemed necessary.
- Long-term spousal support: Long-term spousal support includes payments made for a period of time that the judge views as fair and reasonable given the circumstances of the marriage and the divorce or separation. This type of support is sometimes referred to as “rehabilitative alimony” because it is designed to give the recipient spouse the resources and time to adjust to their new life circumstances. Long-term spousal support orders can include a range of provisions depending on the work experience, education, or training the spouse requires to reach a point where they can support themselves.
As such, it is difficult to qualify precisely what is covered by California spousal support because every case and court order has a unique set of facts and circumstances. Some spousal support orders are short-term, covering the basic living expenses of the ex-spouse, while others are long-term to account for vocational evaluations or schooling, for instance. In some cases, spousal support may even be permanent, lasting for years until the recipient remarries or even passes away.
Frequently Asked Questions
As an experienced Los Angeles spousal support attorney, Cheryl Deptowicz-Diaz works closely with California-based families to navigate alimony issues and support agreements. Having spent well over a decade handling such complex legal matters, we have come to understand the most frequently asked questions pertaining to spousal support and alimony. The following are two common inquiries that we receive from clients regarding spousal support.
How Does Spousal Support Work?
When a spousal support order is made, the judge will specify how payments should be made. Generally, these payments will occur periodically and may be taken through an income withholding order with the contributing spouse’s employer. In other cases, spousal support may be paid in a lump sum.
Many individuals are concerned about their tax obligations as it pertains to spousal support payments. If your divorce or separation was finalized in California before 2019, the contributing spouse may continue deducting payments for the purposes of federal income taxes. The recipient spouse, however, must report spousal support as income on their tax returns. For couples divorced after 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the requirements to report spousal support on federal tax returns. Statewide, spousal support recipients are still required to include payments as income on their tax returns.
How Will Spousal Support be Calculated in California?
While child support orders are calculated using a specific formula, spousal support is less straightforward. Rather than using a “calculator” of sorts to determine spousal support, the judge has full discretion to decide the amount and length of the order. To make this decision, the judge will take into consideration a variety of factors, such as:
- Length of the marriage.
- Age and health of each spouse.
- Standard of living enjoyed by each spouse during the marriage.
- The ability of each spouse to maintain the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage, accounting for their marketable skills and capacity to earn income. If a spouse exited the job market to care for children, this will also be accounted for.
- Debts and assets of each spouse.
- Balance of hardships for each spouse
- Any documented record of domestic violence or abuse
Above all, the judge will aim to make a proper order based on what is equitable and fair for each spouse. In most cases, a spousal support agreement can be modified by the court if circumstances change in the future. To discuss how spousal support works in California, consider contacting a Los Angeles alimony lawyer who can provide further guidance.
Visit With a Los Angeles Spousal Support Attorney Near You
Spousal support is an area of concern for many families in California, yet it can be complicated to discern the information available regarding how these orders are issued in the state. Given the complexity of these legal matters and the subjective nature of the judge’s decision-making, as it relates to spousal support, it can be helpful to have an experienced Los Angeles spousal support attorney by your side. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process, avoiding common errors that may arise and ensuring that your interests are upheld at every step. To learn more, consider scheduling a consultation or contacting Diaz Law Firm at (626) 261-0402 today.