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How Spousal Support Is Determined In California

If you’re in California and going through a divorce, you’re likely wondering what the outcome will be as it pertains to alimony payments, also called spousal support. Typically, the higher wage earner pays a regular amount to their ex-spouse, who makes less, but there are multiple aspects at play in the determination process. Many factors go into determining if alimony is valid, how it’s calculated, and what it means for you as the payor or recipient.

This article will cover elements of alimony determination and discuss the possibility of modification down the road.

Length Of The Marriage

In the state of California, alimony reflects the complex reality of the divorcing couple as well as how long they were married. Spousal support often lasts for half the length of the marriage in the case that the marriage lasted less than ten years.

For longer marriages, there is generally no time limit on the support order. Instead, the higher-income earner needs to show the lower-income earner no longer needs the support. This is done either through an amicable agreement between both parties, or as it often does, through litigation if an agreement can not be reached.

There are some related terms that you need to know regarding alimony arrangements and how payments are made.

Pendente Lite 

This is temporary spousal support. Pendente lite is Latin for “during litigation.” This means there is a temporary arrangement before the divorce is finalized and a long-term support arrangement is established. This is intended to help both parties maintain the same lifestyle they enjoyed during their marriage and is calculated on a specific set of guidelines.

Long-Term Support

Long-term or permanent spousal support is an order agreed to by both parties or ordered by the court as part of the final divorce resolution. Long-term support is generally ordered for marriages that lasted longer than ten years. It entitles the lower-wage earner to a specified amount of years of alimony payments, or—in some cases—even lifetime payments.

Temporary Support Calculation

While there are determining factors to calculate temporary support, there is a specialized software program that family law attorneys and judges use to calculate the amount. This software automatically generates an estimated support figure based on:

  • Each spouse’s income
  • Health Insurance deductions
  • Any other taxable earnings

While an attorney can typically give you an accurate estimate, they cannot make a guarantee as to what the final amount will be. Keep this in mind when consulting your attorney regarding spousal support terms and amounts.

Long-Term Support Calculation 

Calculating long-term support is a bit more of an involved process. There is no calculator to give an amount, and certain factors must be considered to come to an agreeable amount. If you and your spouse can’t agree on an amount and length of time for the support, a hearing is held, and a judge decides the support and length of time.

The factors considered while calculating long-term support are:

  • Supported spouse’s ability to obtain a job that would negate the need for support. This ability is based on the job market, time and expense required to acquire education or training to develop new skills, and the possible need for retraining or education to be more marketable or become employed
  • The extent of the supported spouse’s inability to be employed because of long periods of unemployment during the marriage for domestic and childcare duties
  • How much and if the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s education, training, career, or licenses
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay considers their earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living
  • The financial needs of both spouses’ based on the marital standard of living
  • Both spouse’s debts and assets – this includes separate property
  • The length of the marriage
  • The supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home without interfering with the care of dependent children
  • The age and health of both spouses

There may be other considerations a judge considers, but these are the primary considerations used when determining the amount and length of time for long-term support.

Modifications Of Spousal Support

There are specific circumstances where you can file to modify your spousal support agreement. In California, the following are qualifying events that can be cited to petition to modify spousal support:

  • Payor loses job
  • Payee obtains a comparable job making close to the same amount as the payor
  • Either party gets remarried
  • The payee receives an inheritance

There is no set-in-stone rule determining how long spousal support lasts, but many factors play a part in calculating the amount, length of time, and modifications.

Consult A Lawyer For Help

At Hann Law Firm, we take a personal approach to everything we do. From our first consultation, we’ll listen to your needs and concerns. Listening to our clients is at the heart of our success in the courtroom. When you work with us, we’ll address your specific challenges, prepare diligently for the best possible outcome, and create a personalized approach to help achieve your goals.

This kind of care takes more time, but the results of our personalized approach speak for themselves. While other firms see a case number and a bottom line, we see each client as a human being who deserves justice. We know your case is important to you, and we’ll take it just as personally. You – and your case – matter to us. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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