California Spousal Support Myths
There are a lot of misconceptions about the frustrating divorce topic of alimony. In California, alimony is officially referred to as spousal support. With the amount of misinformation on the Internet, many people facing divorce have misconceptions when it comes to spousal support. Here are some of the most common myths:
1) Spousal Support is Ordered When Divorce is Final
In any California divorce, two different types of spousal support can happen; temporary or permanent. Temporary spousal support may be required and ordered even before a divorce is finalized. With a temporary spousal support, payments are only temporary. Payments will also end once the divorce becomes official. Temporary spousal support is paid by the higher-earning spouse. This helps to ensure that the lower-earning spouse receives financial support during the divorce proceeding.
Permanent spousal support is regular payments for a period of time ordered by a family judge to start after the divorce becomes final. It is meant to help the supported spouse maintain the same financial status enjoyed during the marriage.
2) Spousal Support is Permanent
Permanent spousal support is more appropriately termed long-term support as it will almost never actually be permanent. Generally, spousal support payments after the divorce is finalized will depend on the length of the marriage. In most cases, for marriages that lasted less than ten years, the support may continue for half of the life of the marriage. For marriages that lasted longer than ten years, the support will be considered on a case by case basis.
If either spouse dies, the requirement for spousal support payments will terminate. This means that once the payor spouse dies, spousal support cannot be deducted from their estate. Similarly, after the supported spouse dies, their estate cannot seek payments from the living payor spouse.
3) All Spousal Support is Determined by a Computer
A computer cannot determine the unique situation of every divorce and the specific circumstances of the couple’s life. To make a final spousal support order, family law judges will consider numerous factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s age and health. They will also have to consider the incomes of both spouses, the supported spouse’s ability to obtain employment and the payor spouse’s ability to pay. Also considered will be the time a spouse took off to raise the children, if applicable, in the marriage. Spousal support payments should ideally allow the supported spouse to maintain the standard of living established during marriage.
It is settled law in California that temporary spousal support computer programs cannot be used to determine “permanent” spousal support or be used as a “jumping off point” to begin negotiations for proper spousal support.
4) Spousal Support is Determined by Marital Misconduct
In California, spousal support can only be awarded for financial purposes, not because one spouse committed adultery or some other misconduct. The one exception is that a family law judge may withhold spousal support from a spouse who committed acts of violence against the payor spouse.
5) Spousal Support is Set in Stone
The circumstances of either spouse can change in an instant. The payor spouse or the supported spouse may seek a modification of the spousal support that was ordered for the temporary or permanent spousal support. For example, if the payor cannot afford to pay spousal support for legitimate reasons, the payor spouse can attempt to modify the terms of the spousal support.
Spousal support can be a heated topic for divorcing couples. Many times, it is due to misunderstanding their legal rights. When facing a divorce, speaking with a family law attorney can help you understand your spousal support rights and obligations.