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Spousal Support & Alimony Lawyers

What is spousal support?

Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to a former spouse after marriage to assist the former spouse maintain the standard of living which the spouses enjoyed during the marriage. The term spousal support is used in Court; however, the term alimony is mostly used by non-lawyers.  Spousal support and alimony are synonymous terms.

Am I entitled to spousal support?

Husbands, wives, and domestic partners are eligible to receive spousal support. When considering whether a person is eligible for spousal support, the Court will consider many factors. The most important factors include: respective incomes of the parties, are length of marriage, the presence of a corresponding child support order, the age of the parties, and the timing of the request for spousal support.

Will I have to pay spousal support?

You will not have to pay spousal support if your spouse does not file a request for spousal support with the Court. If your former spouse files a request for spousal support, whether or not you have to pay spousal support depends on many factors, including: the respective incomes of the parties, the length of marriage, the age of the parties, the presence of a child support order, etc.

Do I pay support if my ex was unfaithful?

California is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that the divorce court will neither look at the reasons for the divorce, nor use any reason for a divorce as a factor for determining the amount of spousal support to be paid. One exception to this rule is that if a former spouse is cohabitating with a significant other, then there is a presumption that he or she has a reduced need for spousal support.

Temporary v. permanent spousal support?

Temporary spousal support is an initial support order that is designed to support the former spouse until the case is completed. Permanent spousal support is an order after a negotiated settlement or a after a full hearing on all of the relevant support factors. Temporary spousal support is generally, though not always, higher than permanent spousal support orders because the Court has not had an opportunity to review the relevant factors associated with setting of permanent spousal support.

How is spousal support calculated?

Temporary spousal support orders are arrived at differently than permanent spousal support orders. When determining a temporary spousal support amount the Court utilizes a preset formula that primarily factors the incomes of the parties. It is against the law for the Court to use a formula to determine an amount for permanent spousal support. For permanent spousal support, the Court will consider other evidence, including assets and debts of the parties, length of the marriage, income earning abilities of the parties, educational backgrounds of the parties, etc.

Can the amount of support be modified?

Generally, both temporary and permanent spousal support orders can be modified, unless the parties have agreed to close “jurisdiction” over the issue. To change a spousal support order, the requesting spouse will need to show a change of circumstances, such as a change of income for either spouse. 

Note: Voluntarily quitting a job will not necessarily lower or increase a spousal support order.

Do I have to pay spousal support if I retire?

If you are of retirement age and retire, the Court may look at your reduced retirement income and reduce a spousal support order. However, before doing so, the Court will have to look at all the relevant factors to justify a downward modification of spousal support.

Long term marriage v. short term marriage?

A long term marriage is defined as a marriage that lasts ten years or long from the date of marriage or the date of separation. A short term marriage is defined as a marriage that lasts less than 10 years between date of marriage and date of separation. However, in unusual circumstances Courts are allowed to find that a marriage was “long term” even if the marriage was less than 10 years.

How long will I have to pay spousal support?

Generally, if your marriage is a “short term” marriage, the obligation to pay spousal support continues for half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 6 years (a short term marriage) a Court will likely order that spousal support be paid, if at all, for up to 3 years. For long term marriages, there is no time limit on the duration of the obligation to pay spousal support.

Can a spouse waive spousal support?

Yes. Spousal support can be waived before marriage, during marriage, or after marriage. Waiver of spousal support, means to give up the right to receive spousal support. This is usually done through premarital (prenuptial), intermarital (postnuptial), or post-marital agreements. Strict procedural rules must be followed to effectively waive the right to receive spousal support. See Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements.

Can spouses agree on a support amount?

Yes. Spousal support amounts can be agreed upon and determined by the spouses. The amount of spousal support can be predetermined through a prenuptial agreement or an intermarital agreement, or the amount can be agreed upon after marriage through an agreement of the parties. For example, the spouses may agree on a “buy out” of spousal support, where one spouse makes a one time payment to the other spouse.

Do I pay support if my ex-spouse remarries?

No. If your spousal support order is paid by wage garnishment, it may require obtaining a new order to stop the support payment. If you have overpaid spousal support, you may file a request with the Court to seek repayment of any amount overpaid.

Can I claim support payments on my taxes?

Yes, Court ordered spousal support payments are tax deductible. Evidence of spousal support payments should be documented (i.e. check, bank account transfer, wage garnishment, etc.). Parties can negotiate whether or not spousal support is a tax deduction to the paying spouse. Conversely, spousal support payments are taxable income for the receiving spouse.

Do I pay support if I am legally separated?

Spousal support laws apply to legal separation cases in the same way and manner that they are applied to divorce (dissolution of marriage) cases.

How to Collect Unpaid Spousal Support

When a person fails to pay a spousal support order the receiving party may petition the court for a wage garnishment (earnings assignment), an action for contempt of court, and/or a peititon for civil penalties.


Upated 7/9/23

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