Spousal Support & Alimony Attorney
Not surprisingly, spousal support and alimony are often the cause of bitter disputes during a divorce. One spouse may feel that financially supporting the other throughout the marriage was enough, while the other spouse may believe that he or she should be compensated for non-monetary contributions. It is an issue that inextricably combines emotional and financial concerns.
Working with an experienced divorce firm is very important when an individual faces an alimony battle. Our clients can rely on the knowledge and skill of E&L, LLP to discuss and advise them with all types of economic issues, including alimony and complex spousal support.
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Spousal support may be paid to one party while the couple is separated but before an order is adjudicated by the court, or otherwise a pendente lite order may be granted after the divorce is filed. After the divorce is finalized and the assets have been divided, the court may decide to grant alimony for support and maintenance, which may be in the form of a lump-sum payment or a property award.
The financial circumstances of each party are the most important factors in determining alimony.
The court considers many economic and non-economic factors, including:
- Length of the marriage
- The physical, emotional, and mental condition of each party
- Income and earning capabilities of each party
- Whether one party supported the education or training of the other
- Whether the party seeking alimony is capable of self-support
- Contributions of one party as a homemaker
Modification of spousal support and alimony in California
Modification of alimony awards is possible if one party’s financial situation changes after the dissolution of marriage. If the party receiving alimony remarries or lives with a financially supportive member of the opposite sex, alimony will be terminated unless the parties have reached an agreement to the contrary.
Spousal support: questions & answers
Can I expect temporary spousal support during my divorce?
A temporary spousal support order, or a pendente lite order, is an order that exists during the pendency of a divorce action. Spousal support is oftentimes one of the primary orders the Courts make after the filing of a petition for a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or termination of a domestic partnership. Unlike a permanent spousal support order, in establishing a pendent lite order, it is the court’s inherent authority to determine each party’s needs and ability to pay. Similar to a child support order, the court will use a computer program that factors several factors in establishing a pendente lite order, called a Disaster.
How is permanent spousal support calculated in California?
The Family Code in California provides a number of factors that the divorce court must consider in determining permanent spousal support order.
- Length of the marriage;
- Parties’ earning ability;
- Parties’ ability to pay;
- The ability of the supported party to seek employment without interfering with the interest of the children;
- Parties’ needs;
- Age and health of the parties;
- The marital standard of living;
- Parties’ educations;
- Whether there has been domestic violence; and
- Any other factors that the court determines are equitable and just.
Permanent spousal support in divorce cases is not mandatory, but discretionary upon the court. Contact our firm to discuss your options and whether our firm will be able to attain permanent spousal support for you.
I have been married for 10+ years with my partner. Does that affect my spousal support order?
Yes. In California, there is a standard threshold that affects spousal support where the marriage is of less than 10 years, and others longer than 10 years. For marriages lasting less than 10 years, it is common that a spousal support order is made equal to one-half the length of the marriage. Conversely, marriages lasting more than 10 years may continue for an extended period of time absent an agreement of the parties. In such cases, the obligor paying spousal support shall seek the court’s attention in the future to determine whether they qualify to terminate their spousal support order. It is the experience of family law attorneys that can assist and evaluate which course of action the party should seek. Contact our firm to discuss your options.
How can I terminate my spousal support order?
Terminating spousal support may be one of the challenges a party in a divorce action can face post-judgment. The party requesting a termination order has the burden of illustrating to the court there is a change of circumstances that warrant either modification or termination of the support order. Every case is different, and not all factors can be met by the requesting party seeking termination, or the party opposing the request. To request termination of a spousal support order, the requesting party must file a judicial form called a Request For Order, with supporting facts constituting the change of circumstance.
What are the “change of circumstance” factors the court considers in terminating spousal support order?
There is no definite distinction that courts consider in terminating a spousal support order. Before a permanent spousal support order is either modified or terminated, the divorce court must consider all factors envisioned under Family Code 4320. However, there are the common grounds of remarriage or cohabitation of the supported spouse by another, and whether the supported spouse has been gainfully employed, or failed to be gainfully employed within a timeframe the court considers reasonable under the circumstances of the divorce. There is also the unfortunate occurrence of death of the party. Contact our firm to determine whether you qualify to terminate your spousal support order, and what factors the court can consider in your particular case.
I have been given a Gavron warning. What is it?
A Gavron warning is issued by the court to an unemployed spouse who has sought a spousal support order. It is meant to warn the supported spouse that they cannot clinch onto the supporting party for an indefinite period of time. Each party is meant to be free from the other. If the spouse given the Gavron warning does not make a good faith attempt to become self-sufficient, the court at a future hearing will impute income to that spouse.
There are other requirements from the spouse who was issued the Gavron warning. The court can enforce the supported spouse to provide evidence that s/he has made certain contacts with employers, has submitted resumes, or participating in an active job search. Commonly the court can expect the supported spouse to provide proof of contact with 5 to 10 potential employers, including the job location, identification of the person contacted, and date of contact.
My spouse has not worked in a long time. What are my options?
Either party to a divorce action may request a vocational evaluation of the other spouse to determine whether the unemployed spouse is able and/or has the opportunity to work. A vocation evaluation takes the shape of either a physical or a mental examination. An evaluation can produce significant results which can prove helpful at trial on the issue of spousal support or child support. Should the examiner determine that your spouse has an earning capacity, the court can impute income. Imputation of income can be ordered against either spouse, whether they are the supported or supporting spouse.