What Goes Into Determining the Amount of Spousal Support

There are lots of variables to spousal support, but it’s not a mystery!

September 15, 2020

If you are going through a divorce or expect that a legal separation is in your future, make sure to consult with an Orange County divorce attorney.

There’s more at stake than just who gets the furniture — in many cases, spousal support becomes a significant issue, and with the help of an Orange County divorce mediation attorney, you might be able to come to an agreement on some issues, like property division and child custody, but issues like spousal support may require judicial intervention.

Here’s what you need to know about how spousal support is determined:

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is often referred to as alimony, it is meant to limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce. The non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse receives income from the other spouse.

The idea behind spousal support is to help a spouse continue the standard of living he or she had during the marriage. It’s often the case that one spouse may forego a career, education, or other opportunities to help take care of the family.

In cases where both partners work and are able to sustain themselves, spousal support may not even be a consideration. You Orange County divorce attorney can help you determine if you qualify for alimony or not.

How Does Spousal Support Differ from Child Support?

Just because you hired a child support lawyer in Orange County doesn’t mean spousal support is on the table as well. Your Orange County divorce attorney may be comfortable handling both spousal support and child support, just make sure to ask.

Child support is meant to help ensure that all expenses associated with raising a child are covered. Just because a child’s parents decide to divorce doesn’t mean that child should suffer. Courts attempt to be fair when determining how much support is needed.

The court will consider both parents’ incomes, expected costs, and where the child spends most of their time to determine support amounts. Most states have something similar to a formula that helps dictate support amounts.

Spousal support, on the other hand, doesn’t have a direct formula. Courts consider spousal support on a case-by-case basis. That is why it is crucial that you work with an Orange County divorce attorney.

Whether you believe that you’ll be owed alimony or you’re concerned that your ex expects spousal support, you need the assistance of a legal professional to ensure that the outcome is fair.

If you’re more concerned about support for your children, meet with a child support attorney in Orange County right away.

How Does the Court Determine Spousal Support?

There are no hard-and-fast rules about who can request support. The idea behind alimony is that it’s gender-neutral. The challenge is that the requesting spouse must be able to prove a need for the support.

Once a request is made, the court will consider a variety of factors such as:

  • How much each spouse currently earns and their overall earning capacity
  • How each spouse supported each other’s education or professional training
  • The ability of the paying spouse to pay alimony
  • How much each spouse requires to maintain the marital standard of living
  • Each spouse’s debts and assets
  • The length of the marriage
  • If and how the supported spouse can become employed without interfering with childcare of any minor children
  • Each person’s age and overall health
  • Any documented history of domestic violence against each other or the children
  • Each person’s tax consequences
  • Each person’s balance of hardships
  • Any criminal convictions of an abusive spouse
  • The goal that the supported spouse will be self-supporting within a reasonable time frame, and
  • Other factors that align with CA FAM 4320

How is Spousal Support Paid?

The court typically decides how alimony is paid. There are cases when the court will allow a lump-sum payment of property and cash to the recipient. This is beneficial in that it eliminates the need to collect ongoing payments. Once paid, however, there are no ways to change the award.

Most often, courts will dictate regular payments. The court will issue an income withholding order to the paying spouse’s employer. The appropriate amount is then direct deposited from the supporting spouse’s paycheck.

Current tax laws do not count receiving support payments as a taxable source of income. The supporting spouse also doesn’t earn any kind of credit for making support payments. Both parties will still list payments on their taxes.

Those who finalized their divorce before the end of 2018 may have different rules. Check with your Orange County divorce mediation attorney to understand how the new tax rules impact you.

Can Support Orders Be Changed?

Either spouse can petition the court to modify or terminate a spousal support order. A successful request requires evidence that the circumstances around the initial order have changed.

If the paying spouse, for example, is laid off or becomes too ill to work, there may be grounds to change the payment amounts. If the receiving spouse isn’t making efforts to become self-supporting, there may also be grounds to change the order.

To ensure that your request to adapt or terminate a support order has the greatest chance of success, consult with an Orange County divorce attorney.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

During the initial filing for support, the requesting spouse can ask for temporary relief. This kind of support is meant to last until the divorce is finalized. This is a way to help the requesting spouse until assets are officially divided. A temporary support order typically ends the day a judge finalizes the divorce.

If the requesting spouse isn’t requesting temporary support, then the court considers rehabilitative and permanent support. This kind of support ends when the receiving spouse is self-sufficient. In the case of permanent support, payments end with the receiving spouse remarries or if either party dies.

Spousal Support and Beyond

Even a permanent spousal support order doesn’t remove your responsibility for your financial future.

It’s crucial that you make plans to prepare for one, three, and five years into the future. You never know when something could change, and your support payments are no more.

It is wise to contact us at Lemkin Law and meet with our Orange County divorce mediation attorney to learn more.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!


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