Spousal support can be a very contentious issue when a divorce occurs or partners go their separate ways. Spousal support is not ordered in every case. Whether you’re trying to obtain spousal support or avoid it, you need a skilled family law attorney who can effectively argue your case. The spousal support attorneys at Kaufman Steinberg are here to help.
When there is a legal separation or divorce the parties can agree to support in a specific amount and/or duration. If they can’t reach an agreement, a judge can order one spouse to pay the other support.
This “spousal support” for married couples is also referred to as “alimony.”
An order to pay such support can be ordered in these cases:
- Divorce, legal separation, or annulment
- Cases of domestic violence involving restraining orders
You can request a “temporary spousal support order” while your case is ongoing. Support may also be ordered as part of a final divorce or separation judgment. When support is ordered in a final judgment, it’s called “permanent” (or “long-term”) spousal or partner support.
When the court orders the final spousal or partner support order, the judge will consider the factors spelled out in California Family Code section 4320, including, but not limited to:
- How long the marriage or domestic partnership lasted;
- What each party needs based on their standard of living during the marriage;
- What each person earns, or can pay, to maintain that standard of living;
- Whether working would make it too difficult to care for young children;
- The age and health of both parties;
- Debts and property of each spouse;
- Whether one party helped the other obtain an education, training, career or professional license;
- Whether domestic violence involving the parties occurred;
- Whether a career was impacted by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home;
- The impact of taxes on spousal support; and
- Any other equitable factors that may apply.
In some circumstances, if a party is self-employed or receives perquisites through his/her employer, a forensic accountant may be useful to assess a true and accurate cash flow available for support. This is common where one spouse believes the other spouse is “hiding money,” is unfamiliar with the other spouse’s income or employment benefits, or the needs of one spouse must be expertly assessed based upon the marital standard of living.
If you are ordered pay support but fall behind in making payments, you will likely be ordered pay the legal interest rate (currently 10% per annum) on the balance due. These interest charges are added by law and cannot be stopped by the judge. If the court finds you could pay the required support but willfully decided not to pay it, you could be found “in contempt of court.” Though it rarely happens, being found in contempt of court could result in jail time.
The spousal or partner support order becomes part of the final divorce or legal separation judgment. However, that’s not always the end of the story. After a final judgment, either ex-spouse or ex-domestic partner may request a change to the amount support if there is a sufficient “change in circumstances” in which something significant has changed since the original support order was made.
Spousal and domestic partner support normally stops if:
- A court order or judgment terminates it;
- One of the parties dies; or
- The person receiving the support remarries.
Spousal or partner support can have a significant financial impact on the parties paying and receiving it. It’s an important issue that requires the skilled, knowledgeable efforts of a veteran spousal support attorney. If you are now, or may in the future be, involved in spousal or partner support proceedings, contact Kaufman Steinberg today so we can discuss your situation, the applicable laws and how we can help you.