Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer

There are many considerations that must be made if you and your spouse are contemplating divorce. Separating finances, finding new living arrangements, and working out child custody are all factors that may arise from a divorce. For many people, deciding to end a marriage also comes with a hit to their standard of living—especially if their spouse has been the primary breadwinner. If you are facing the possibility of financial difficulty or are unable to support yourself fully in the wake of a divorce, you may be eligible for some form of spousal support.

The uncertainty that arises during a divorce can feel overwhelming. It can be difficult to navigate the legal process, especially when you are attempting to set yourself up for success after your marriage ends. As an Orange County family law firm for nearly twenty years, the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, APC, has extensive experience in helping our clients receive the support they need to sustain themselves for the next chapter of life. You handle the emotions and personal side of your divorce. We can manage the legal side and ensure you receive every asset you are entitled to.

orange county spousal support lawyer

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is also called alimony. It is the legal term used to define payments made to one spouse from the other following a divorce filing. It is intended to support the receiving spouse and maintain their standard of living. Spousal support is intended to last until the divorce is final or they can obtain a job or other means to support themselves. California’s state policy expects the divorced parties to become self-supporting within a reasonable time frame.

Spousal support can become a bitterly contested issue, as parties generally dislike paying their spouse alimony. Spousal support can be sought during a separation, divorce, or nullity case. However, this is not the only time spousal support can be pursued. It can also be sought when a divorce or separation is finalized, or even at any time after the conclusion of a legal separation or divorce, as long as the court retains the power to order spousal support.

Types of Spousal Support

California recognizes four possible types of spousal support:

  • Temporary Support: Enables a lower-earning spouse to cover expenses while the divorce is in process. It is meant to maintain both parties’ living standards and conditions. This lasts until the final division of marital assets and a permanent support order have been determined. Temporary support ends when the divorce is final.
  • Rehabilitative Support: This is intended to support a lower-earning spouse while they search for a job or seek training or education to increase their job options. It is generally ordered for a set period of time. It helps a lower-earning spouse gain additional education and job skills that will help them become self-reliant.
  • Permanent Support: This provides the receiving spouse with a sufficient income for their basic needs. It also guarantees that their lifestyle will remain consistent following the divorce. It is generally awarded on an indefinite basis, usually reserved for marriages lasting more than 10 years and/or when the lower-earning spouse is unable to enter the workforce. For shorter marriages, “permanent” support typically lasts half the length of the marriage; for longer marriages, it might last until the recipient remarries or until it can be proven they no longer need it.
  • Lump-Sum Support: This balances out marital property division. California is a community property state, meaning most property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered to be equally owned by the spouses. A California judge will attempt to keep property division equitable. For example, one of the parties does not want any property or valuable items from the marriage. A judge may order the other party to pay a one-time, lump sum payment to compensate for the skewed division of property.

Duration of Spousal Support Payments

The duration of spousal support depends on multiple factors, but one of the major ones is the duration of the marriage. The ten-year rule for spousal support is the determining factor for the duration of many spousal support cases.

  • The marriage lasts for less than ten years: The duration of spousal support is one-half of the time the marriage lasted. For example, a marriage that lasts for six years would typically entitle the receiving spouse to three years of spousal support. However, a judge has the discretion to shorten or lengthen the payment term. Having a knowledgeable attorney can help ensure these payments are fair based on the circumstances of your marriage and divorce. They can present relevant information to the judge to justify altering the payment schedule.
  • The marriage lasts for longer than 10 years: The marriage is considered long-term, and a judge cannot set an end date for spousal support payments. The end of these payments will be determined by other factors. For example, the spouse receiving support either finds a job that can maintain their standard of living or remarries. The paying spouse can petition the court for the end of spousal support payments.

There are exceptions to the general ten-year rule.

  • Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements: These documents may have clauses that set the duration and amount of spousal support payments. If this agreement is legally valid, the court will typically uphold the terms of this agreement. One example is a clause in the marital agreement that states the supported spouse will receive short-term or lump-sum spousal support. This agreement will usually be upheld, even if the marriage lasted for longer than ten years. They would have been entitled to permanent spousal support payments without the agreement.
  • Agreement Between Spouses: The divorcing spouses may create an agreement for the spousal payment amount and duration. If so, the court will typically uphold the agreement. Even disgruntled parties may be able to reach an agreement with the support of a family law facilitator or mediator.

Even if there is not a specified end time for spousal support in the court order, there are some circumstances that trigger an automatic end to the support. If either the paying or receiving party dies, the spousal support payments will stop. The payments will also usually stop if the recipient remarries. The exception would be a marital settlement agreement that states the support will continue even upon remarriage.

Spousal Support Litigation

If the spouses cannot agree on spousal support payments, and there is no marital agreement in place, the court will dictate the terms of the support. The duration of the marriage will play a significant role in determining alimony. However, it is far from the only consideration.

Different county courts utilize different alimony formulas to determine the temporary spousal support amount. Orange County generally uses the Santa Clara maintenance formula. This formula takes 40% of the net income of the paying spouse, minus 50% of the net income of the receiving spouse. For example, the paying spouse annually earns $120,000, and the receiving spouse annually earns $60,000. The formula arrives at a spousal support payment of $1,083 through these steps:

  1. 40% of $120,000 = $48,000
  2. 50% of $70,000 = $35,000
  3. $48,000 – $35,000 = $13,000 annually
  4. $13,000 / 12 months = $1,083 monthly

These values will be adjusted for tax consequences. The net income will not include any payments made for child support.

The determination of permanent spousal support is much more complex. There is no pre-determined calculation, and there are many more considerations. Factors considered for permanent spousal support include:

  • The health and age of each party
  • The couple’s individual and joint property and debts
  • The amount each spouse can afford to pay to sustain the standard of living present during the marriage
  • Contributions made by one spouse to the other while they were obtaining education, training, or professional licensure
  • The expense and time the supported spouse will need to obtain an education or training for a job
  • Effects of spousal support on state and federal tax
  • The impact of taking care of the couple’s home or children on one spouse’s career
  • Marketable skills and the relevant job market of the spouse receiving spousal support
  • Domestic violence history in the marriage

Paying Spousal Support

When spousal support begins, the payment is typically taken out of your paycheck with an earnings assignment. This order tells your employers to automatically deduct the payments from your paycheck. It also provides instructions on where to send them. If the order is only for spousal support, the payment will be sent directly to the spouse. If child support is also taken out of the paycheck, the money will be sent to the California State Disbursement Unit. They will then send it to the recipient.

Spousal Support Modification

Spousal support is court ordered. Serious consequences can arise if the payments are not made in full and on time. Fortunately, there is a way to alter spousal support if your circumstances change and you cannot meet the current ordered amount. It is important to note that both parties can petition for spousal support modification. However, the petitioning spouse must present evidence to prove the change in circumstances that would justify changing alimony payments. Potential reasons for spousal support modification include:

  • Unemployment
  • Retirement
  • Serious illness or disability
  • Incarceration
  • Cohabitation between the receiving spouse and a new partner
  • Permanent decrease in income

One or more of these situations may apply to your case. However, spousal support is still owed until a court order changes the payments.

Penalties for Failure to Pay Spousal Support

Failure to pay spousal support, or alimony, can result in significant penalties. These penalties can include:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Being held in contempt of court
  • Paying more
  • Wage garnishment
  • Civil or criminal charges that result in fines or jail time
  • IRS notification and seizure of tax refund checks
  • Property or asset seizure
  • Interest accrual on owed funds

These penalties can have dramatic consequences for the payee of spousal support. If you are unable to make these payments, it is important to seek out an attorney. They can help you file a request that the support be modified or even stopped. If you are the receiving party, an attorney can help you enforce the court order. They can also help you seek a remedy for the lack of payment.

FAQs About Orange County, CA Spousal Support Law

Are Spousal Support Payments Taxable?

Spousal support may be considered tax-deductible to the paying party and taxable income to the receiving party for state tax purposes. This is different from child support, which is neither considered taxable income to the receiving party nor deductible as income to the paying party. At the federal level, spousal support is no longer tax deductible. Speaking with a tax professional is important to ensure your taxes are filed correctly, especially if you are recently separated or divorced.

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Spousal Support?

There have been several recent changes to spousal support laws when domestic violence has occurred. Under California Family Code 4320(i), documented domestic violence in the marriage must be considered during spousal support payment consideration. Under Family Code 4325, a spouse convicted of domestic violence against their spouse within the past five years cannot receive spousal support.

Will Child Support Payments Affect Spousal Support Payments?

During a divorce where the parties share children, spousal support is often ordered along with child support. If child support is being paid from one party to another, this will reduce the amount of spousal support that will be paid. This is because child support lowers the payee’s net income. When child support ends, the recipient party may petition the court for an increase in spousal support. This post-judgment motion is specifically authorized by Family Code 4326.

Can a Person Be Incarcerated for Failure to Pay Child Support?

A person can be incarcerated because they are not paying alimony. However, the incarceration is not because of the debt accrual. The party that is supposed to be paying alimony is violating a court order when they do not make support payments. Therefore, they can be charged with and prosecuted for contempt of court. This is generally a last resort that is applied when other collection methods have failed.

Can a Spousal Support Agreement Be Worked Out Without Going to Court?

A spousal support agreement can be created without going to court. If the separating or divorcing parties can work together and agree on the payment amount and duration, the court will generally accept the agreement. Even spouses at odds can work with a mediator. They may help them reach a mutually acceptable arrangement that prevents a ruling by a judge.

Orange County Spousal Support

It is not a simple feat to navigate the family court system, especially when you are facing the immense emotions that come during a divorce. Even if divorce is the healthiest choice for you moving forward, it is still a significant change in your life. It will require planning and forethought to handle well. The most beneficial aid is a compassionate and competent Orange County attorney with experience in family law and spousal support.

Choosing a skilled law firm like the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, APC, is the leading way to ensure you are treated fairly during the divorce. Our team understands the difficult situation you are in. As a result, we strive to be honest and supportive until the conclusion of your case. If you are ready to explore your potential rights to spousal support with an accomplished Orange County family law attorney, contact the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, APC, today.

About Lemkin Law

Hollie Lemkin is the daughter, granddaughter, sister, and aunt to lawyers. She knows that Family Law is about more than winning. It is about inflicting the least amount of collateral damage on your children and putting your family in the most advisable possible position moving forward. A passionate trial lawyer, she will never back down from a fight.

She is exactly the attorney you want in your corner.

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


Family Law Blog

Each week we will bring you the best and latest advice in Family Law matters.

2024 How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Father [...]

We’re here to alleviate stress and provide compassionate law advice.

April 04, 2024

2024 How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Mother [...]

We’re here to alleviate stress and provide compassionate law advice.

April 04, 2024