The topic of spousal support can be somewhat confusing depending on your situation. If you find yourself going through a divorce where some kind of spousal support is on the table, make sure to meet with an Orange County divorce attorney to understand your rights and options.

Among the various outcomes of a divorce, spousal support is probably one of the topics that create the most stress next to child support. Many refer to spousal support as alimony. In California, there are two significant types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. Your Orange County divorce mediation attorney can help you understand how they apply to your situation, but here are some things to consider to better understand these two options.

Spousal Support: Defined

The purpose of spousal support is to limit unfair economic impacts that come from a divorce. When applied, the spouse who earned no or low income would receive income from the higher-earning spouse.

While some may argue that spousal support is unfair, it has a noble origin. A spouse, for example, that forgoes focusing on a career to maintain the house, take care of the children, etc., is at a major disadvantage after a divorce. That spouse may have missed out on educational or other opportunities to focus on the overall family.

After the divorce is completed, this person would be in a difficult position to be able to provide for themselves. This helps them maintain some version of the standard of living they grew accustomed to during the marriage.

There are cases when both parties earn enough to support themselves without help from the other. In these situations, the court may not even consider spousal support. Make sure to discuss your specific situation with an Orange County divorce lawyer.

What is Temporary Support?

Temporary spousal support is given during a divorce, annulment, or legal separation. In California, judges have the authority to grant temporary support. This award is only in place while the divorce is happening and can be terminated when the divorce proceedings are complete.

Temporary spousal support is mostly meant to help the lower-income-earning spouse maintain their lifestyle until the proceedings are closed. The judge may award permanent support after the divorce is finalized, or all support may be halted, depending on the outcome of the divorce.

What About Permanent Support?

Like its title suggests, permanent support is meant to last longer than temporary support. At the same time, permanent doesn’t necessarily mean forever. The true meaning of permanent support is that it is awarded and goes into effect at the end of the divorce. In most cases, there is an eventual termination where both spouses are expected to care for themselves.

Orange County divorce attorneys often point to the Gavron Warning to ensure that their clients understand that permanent support isn’t truly permanent.

The Gavron case took place several decades ago. The wife was awarded spousal support because she didn’t work during the marriage. After about six years after the divorce, the argument was made that she had more than enough time to build the necessary skills to rejoin the workforce. The court agreed, and the alimony arrangement was reduced. The onus was then on her to prove that she needed the additional support, which she was unable to do.

The Gavron Warning may not apply to every marriage and divorce, but it serves as a strong warning that merely getting an alimony award does not equate to payments for life.

How is Spousal Support Determined?

While there are some general guidelines in how courts determine spousal support, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Typically, judges have more restrictions on what kind of support plan they award for temporary support vs. for permanent support. Ultimately, support doesn’t depend on gender or role in the court’s decision. It comes down to the requesting spouse and their Orange County divorce attorney making a strong case for the need for the support.

Courts will consider a wide range of factors when determining if support is warranted and what the awarded amount will actually be:

  • The amount each spouse earns along with their overall earning ability
  • How much each spouse supported each other for education and professional training
  • The ability of each spouse to actually pay support
  • The amount needed to maintain the standard of living during the marriage
  • How much each spouse owes
  • The value of each spouse’s assets
  • How childcare impacts the ability to gaining employment
  • Any documented history of domestic violence
  • Each spouse’s overall health, tax consequences, and hardships

How is Spousal Support Paid?

Courts make the final decisions on how alimony is actually paid. In some cases, the payer of support can make a lump sum amount or property and/or cash to the payee. Some people like this because it eliminated the need to collect ongoing payments. Once this amount is paid, however, there is no way to change the amount.

More often, courts will decide on payments made on a regular basis. Most often, the court will also issue a withholding order to take support payments directly from the payer’s employer. The awarded amount is directly deposited into the payee’s bank account, so there is less risk of skipped payments or awkward interactions.

At the moment, payments received as spousal support are not taxed. There are also no earned credits for making support payments, even though both parties will include the necessary support information on their taxes. 

Keep in mind that finalized divorces in 2018 or before may have different rules to follow, and laws continue to change. Consult with your tax professional or Orange County divorce attorney to make sure you follow the appropriate laws and tax codes.

Get Help Today

Whether you’re heading for divorce or expect it’s a possibility, make sure to meet with an Orange County divorce mediation attorney today. The professionals at Lemkin Law can help you understand all of the complexities of spousal support regarding your situation. Regardless of whether you’re the breadwinner or the homemaker, you have rights and options to ensure a reasonable end of your divorce. Don’t go it alone; contact the office of Hollie A. Lemkin today.