Separation and divorce both have their own unique set of challenges for every couple. But if you're worried about facing financial hardship, you may consider seeking spousal support. Here are five things you should know about going after alimony in the state of California so that you know what to expect and what questions to ask when consulting with your attorney.
Temporary Versus Longer-Term Support
If you are seeking alimony, it will either be temporary or come as a final judgment with the divorce.
Temporary alimony is received during the time of separation and before the divorce is final.
Alimony as a judgment comes with the divorce, either as a settlement or through the process of the divorce trial. Even though it may not be paid permanently, it is still a longer-term solution than temporary support.
Existing Child-Support Orders
If you have children and your spouse will be expected to pay child support, the amount of alimony you receive will depend on that amount. But this also means that if you're still getting spousal support once the child-support payments stop (due to children aging out), that amount could increase based on the elimination of the child-support payments.
The Wait to Get It
For temporary support, the parties can agree on an amount before a hearing occurs, and you could start receiving payments right away. But if there's a disagreement, it typically takes anywhere from 30–90 days to have a hearing in which a decision is reached.
If you're waiting on spousal support as a final judgment, it can take anywhere from less than six months to over a year. A lot of this depends on disputes between you and your spouse as far as income or employment, and these disputes are usually what cause the case to drag out.
The Amount You Can Expect to Get
For temporary alimony, the figure is determined by a computer program which formulates a number based on the income of both parties. This number can be up to 40% of the supporting party's net monthly income along with a 50% reduction of the supported party's monthly income.
In cases of long-term alimony, the judge is granted tremendous freedom in deciding how much, but they will usually look at the following circumstances beyond income before making a final determination.
- The needs of each party involved
- How long you were married, your age, and your health
- How easy it would be to maintain the same standard of living with the payments
- If you helped with furthering the education of your spouse or any sort of career training
- Any history of domestic violence and emotional trauma suffered as a result of that abuse
- Whether or not the supporting party is jailed due to domestic violence, resulting in a decreased ability to pay alimony
- The ease with which the supported party can gain employment that won't interfere with child-rearing or other matters regarding the children
- The ability to actually pay the alimony based not only on earned income but also on unearned income, assets, and any expenses that affect overall standard of living
- Whether or not the supported party had periods of unemployment in order to maintain the home, and if those times of unemployment could possibly affect their ability to earn wages
This is not a complete list, but it does give an idea of how thoroughly each case is examined before a final amount is settled on.
Also, consider that you may receive a Gavron warning. This can be given verbally or in writing, and it basically says that you should make an effort to become self-supporting. This can include situations where the supported party may be completely out of work or just underemployed and needs to transition from part-time to full-time work.
Gavron warnings aren't usually issued in cases of long-term marriage where the supported party is close to or entering retirement years.
The Length of Time You Will Receive It For
If you've been married for fewer than ten years, your alimony will last half the length of the marriage. However, marriages that last longer than that are more open when it comes to locking down a length of time the supporting party should pay for.
While lifetime support is rarely done, the law is worded in such a way that it can be expected to be paid until the supported party remarries, one of the parties becomes deceased, or there is a significant change in circumstances. Modifications can be made, and the court can grant a termination of alimony if it seems warranted. For more information about alimony, talk to a local law firm such as Ivy Law Group PLLC.