Throughout a marriage, you’re able to make financial decisions as a couple to determine what works best for your lifestyle. Do you stay at home with your newborn child? Can you quit your 9-to-5 to pursue your own dreams of entrepreneurship? These decisions made during the peak of marital bliss may cause issues for couples going through a divorce.
Following the decision to end a marriage, what happens to the stay-at-home parent who stepped out of the workforce in order to raise their children? Or the parent who isn’t able to care for themselves financially due to injury or inexperience in the workforce?
That’s where a spousal support lawyer in Oceanside, California, is able to assist you. The Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP law firm has spousal support attorneys available who will be more than happy to help you determine if you qualify for alimony.
What is spousal support?
Spousal support is a form of financial assistance designed to help the receiving partner achieve financial independence. If you were legally married and have since divorced, you may be eligible for alimony to help ease your transition to self-sufficiency.
The rules for spousal support vary state-by-state, but in general, the goal is to provide a continuing income for a non-wage earning or lower-age earning spouse. This spouse may need time to develop job skills or may need to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage.
Due to the sensitive, financial nature of spousal support, court cases can become heated and lengthy. While you may feel you’re owed alimony due to a shared decision to work part-time or become a stay-at-home mom during the marriage, now that the marriage has ended, your former spouse may not agree that those decisions will now affect your financial prospects and contest your claim.
That’s why it’s important to hire a seasoned lawyer for your alimony case. No matter if your marriage lasted 10 years or was more short term, if you feel you’re owed or entitled to alimony and wish to request it as part of your divorce trial, your lawyer will make sure your voice is heard. Throughout the court battle, you’ll have a spousal support lawyer on your side to state your case on why you should be qualified for spousal support in a California court.
What is temporary alimony?
Even before a divorce is final, California alimony law allows the non-wage or low-wage earning spouse to receive spousal support payments. This is called temporary alimony. The purpose of this type of support is to ensure each spouse can maintain the “status quo” or the same quality of life throughout their separation.
This goal can make it more complicated for the court to determine whether temporary alimony is required. The spouse requesting support wants to maintain their same quality of life, while the other may feel this is an undue financial burden. And what about their quality of life? How can they support both?
California courts answer these complex questions by looking at the net disposable income of each party involved to determine how much money is being spent each month and whether one spouse is spending money frivolously. The final decision is made based on what the judge determines the spouse requesting alimony needs and how much the other spouse can pay.
In California, many judges may rely on the same computer program used to calculate child support payments in order to determine how much the temporary alimony payments should be. California alimony laws forbid the use of this program to determine payment for long-term alimony, so it is only used in temporary spousal support cases.
Based on this computer program, some criteria for financial support would include:
- Income of both parties involved over the past 12 months
- Tax filing status & exemptions
- Whether a parent is currently paying child support
- Health care or insurance expenses
If either spouse (or both) have children, child support can play a big role in calculating a temporary alimony payment. For example, if a child support payment is reduced or eliminated for the high-wage earning spouse, then the amount of alimony owed could increase. Each case is unique, which is why the advice of an experienced lawyer is paramount to ensuring your best interests are met.
Am I entitled to alimony or spousal support?
Beyond financial need and the spouse’s ability to pay while still supporting himself or herself, the court may consider a number of factors when it comes to alimony:
- Duration of marriage
- Ages of all parties involved
- The physical, mental, and financial condition of all parties
- The length of time needed to gain the education or job skills needed for financial independence
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
As stated, there are several factors that the court considers when deciding whether a spouse meets the spousal support qualifications. It varies from state-to-state, so hiring a spousal support lawyer in Oceanside, California, should be an important part of the process when planning to request alimony. Spousal support cases can get complex. You want a knowledgeable alimony lawyer on-hand and readily available to answer questions, clarify the legal process, and provide you with guidance when preparing for your case. Below, you’ll find more in-depth information about all of the factors a judge may consider when determining if you’re eligible for alimony.
Income, bills, tax deductions – all of your finances will be scrutinized during a spousal support case. For alimony cases in Oceanside, CA, an alimony attorney will ensure you have all of the documents needed to show the court your living and personal care expenses.
If you’re able, it’s also a great idea to provide the court with as much information as possible about your spouse’s finances. This can help prove to the court that your spouse has excess income, and they can then compare your expenses to determine if you qualify for spousal support.
Duration of Marriage
While most states consider the duration of marriage when it comes to spousal support, the end result can vary depending on where you live. In California, the length of the marriage is always considered when it comes to how long a spouse is required to pay alimony. If you were married for less than 10 years, the general rule is that spousal support payments last for half that amount of time. So if you were married for 6 years, alimony payments will be required for 3 years following the divorce.
For long-term marriages of 10 or more years, it’s common for the low-wage earning spouse to be eligible for long-term spousal support. Marriages that lasted for 25 years or more may result in a ruling of lifetime support. In these cases, the high-wage earning spouse will be expected to make alimony payments until they can prove it is no longer necessary at a future date. Reasons for support payments to be deemed unnecessary include your former spouse gaining new, high-paying employment or getting remarried.
Age & Health
Medical conditions caused by age, injury, or illness may help the court decide whether you’re entitled to spousal support. It may be decided that it’s unreasonable to expect full or immediate self-sufficiency following a divorce if one of the spouses has an on-going medical condition that hinders their ability to work or that requires a number of medical visits.
Another factor the court may consider is whether or not one of the spouses involved is near the age of retirement and how that may affect them financially.
Alimony awards based on age or health vary case-by-case. If the court feels that you can get back on your feet within a set amount of years, you may be awarded temporary alimony. However, if you have medical condition that will not permit you to return to work now or in the future, permanent spousal support may be made available to you.
Choosing to be a stay-at-home parent or to work part-time to take care of a child may have been a sound decision at the beginning of your marriage. But if the marriage ends in divorce, you may find that the time you spent out of the work force is making it difficult to find employment.
The court may consider this employment issue when deciding whether alimony should be awarded. Whether you spent an extended period of time unemployed or underemployed, or you don’t have the same level of education as your spouse, the court may grant alimony so that you can maintain the same quality of life while making the transition back into the workforce full-time or while you improve your education.
Does adultery disqualify someone from receiving alimony?
You may think that if a cheating spouse causes a divorce, then a request for alimony should be rejected by the judge.
California is a no-fault jurisdiction, which means that even if the divorce is the result of infidelity or inappropriate behavior on behalf of your spouse – the court does not consider this when determining who is eligible for alimony or spousal support. The goal of alimony is to ensure that neither spouse faces economic hardship or falls into poverty following a divorce. Due to this goal, California judges don’t take adultery into consideration when deciding if someone is entitled to alimony. There is an exception — if the spouse requesting alimony has begun cohabitating with a new partner, the judge may consider this in relation to their financial need.
How long does spousal support last?
Since California alimony laws allow for temporary spousal support during a pending divorce or legal separation, payments can last for a long time. In special circumstances, a spouse could be expected to pay alimony retroactively – back to the initial date of the filing.
In most cases, the length of spousal support is determined by:
Duration of marriage
How soon the low-wage or no-wage earning spouse would be reasonably able to become self-sufficient
There are few, rare cases in which a spouse is required to pay alimony permanently or indefinitely. For example, if it’s not reasonable to expect a former partner to become financially independent due to a medical condition or serious injury that requires extensive medical treatment, then the court may rule that lifetime spousal support is necessary.
But in a lot of cases, when someone meets the qualifications for spousal support, the duration of payment is based on the length of the marriage. Partners married for less than 10 years will receive financial support for 4.5 years or less. California offers a benefit to those who were married for 10 years or more and are now seeking alimony. The length of payment may vary if the marriage lasted for 10 or more years, but it is generally a longer period of time.
In some cases, both parties have the option to choose a fixed spousal support payment. Under these circumstances, you will both decide on how long the financial spousal support will last.
Get a Consultation for Your Oceanside Spousal Support Case
Divorce or legal separation cases can be very complicated – especially when finances become involved. If you’re not sure whether you qualify for spousal support, you should reach out to a spousal support lawyer at Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP for a consultation. Based in Oceanside, California, our alimony lawyers are well-versed in California alimony law. We’ll use this experience to help you get the financial support you deserve during this difficult transition in your life or to ensure you pay your fair share.