Spousal support, also called alimony, is not involved in every San Diego divorce, but does tend to play a role in situations where one spouse earned most of the income and supported the other during marriage. In cases like this, California law may require the more financially secure spouse to support the other for a period of time. As you can imagine, this financial support – the amount and how long it lasts – can cause a good deal of contention.
Is Spousal Support Mandatory?
No, alimony is not awarded in every divorce. Rather, the spouse who seeks support must request it by making appropriate filings in court. There is usually a hearing, where the party seeking support explains why they need assistance and for how long. The paying spouse (the “obligor”) can also present evidence that the soon-to-be-ex is asking for too much or doesn’t need support at all.
Who Qualifies to Receive Alimony in San Diego?
Generally, the lower-earning spouse can receive spousal support from the higher earner for a certain period of time. The recipient spouse is expected to make good faith efforts to become self-supporting within a reasonable time after the divorce. The idea behind spousal support is to help the lower earning spouse maintain a standard of living and avoid falling into an overly difficult financial situation.
Types of Spousal Support in California
If your San Diego divorce will include alimony, there are a few different forms it can take. Some cases will involve a single type, others may involve more than one. Everything depends on the couple’s unique situation. In general, California courts award these types of spousal support.
Temporary alimony/spousal support
This refers to support paid while the divorce is in process. You may also see this referred to as alimony pendente lite, which means “during litigation.” Temporary spousal support ends on the date the divorce is finalized.
Don’t let the word “permanent” confuse you; permanent alimony does not have to last forever. For marriages that lasted less than 10 years, “permanent” support could be awarded for half the length of the marriage. For example, if a marriage lasted eight years, the presumption is that alimony should last four years. For marriages that lasted more than 10 years, there is no automatic end date. The judge has broad discretion on how long the payments should last. Eventually, the paying party can petition the court to end the payments if he/she can provide evidence that the recipient spouse no longer needs support.
Rehabilitative spousal support
This is a commonly award form of support that requires the higher earner to support the lower earner while the lower earner works toward acquiring the job skills and/or education needed to financially support themselves.
Reimbursement spousal support
Found only in California, reimbursement support is a special type of spousal support that is related to one spouse’s financial contributions to the other’s career or education. Essentially, a spouse who helped finance the other spouse’s education or career advancement while they were married can request reimbursement. Think of it as a way for the spouse to recoup some of the costs he/she laid out to help the other spouse enhance his/her credentials.
Lump sum alimony
Sometimes a spouse may not want to receive anything from the property division phase of divorce and would instead prefer a lump sum cash payment. In these situations, a judge can order the spouse who keeps the property to pay the other a one-time payment in lieu of splitting up the marital estate.
How Judges Calculate Spousal Support
Judges will analyze your case and arrive at amount based on certain factors found in the California Family Code, some of which include:
- The income of each spouse
- Any child support payments
- The marketable job skills/earning potential of each spouse
- The ages of the spouses
- Health insurance costs
- Standard of living during the marriage
Modifying and Terminating Spousal Support
A permanent spousal support order, which has no automatic expiration date, can be terminated by the paying spouse if the recipient spouse no longer needs support. There will be a termination hearing and the paying spouse will need to prove that the recipient no longer has a genuine need. Temporary spousal support automatically terminates when the divorce is finalized.
Spousal support orders can also be modified in certain circumstances, such as if a spouse loses their job and can no longer pay. Modification must be sought right away when your circumstances change, so don’t wait to contact a lawyer if you need to change your support order.
Contact Our San Diego Alimony Lawyers Today
The San Diego office of Kaspar & Lugay, LLP handles all types of alimony issues during divorce and after divorce. We will work tirelessly to preserve your standard of living, whether you are the one asking for support or the one paying. To talk to one of our attorneys, please call 415-789-5881 or send us a message online to schedule a free consultation.