The Right Legal Advice When You Need It the Most

Photo of the legal team at Smith Family Law APC

How Is Alimony Determined During a Divorce in California

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2021 | Child Support, Divorce

While some couples going through a divorce can work through complex issues like property division and child support without going to court, most require judicial intervention when discussing alimony. Alimony or spousal support is one of the most stressful, emotional, and difficult topics couples have to resolve during a divorce.

Couples in California going through divorce need to come to an agreement that requires one ex-spouse to pay money to the other party. There are many challenges when determining alimony in San Diego, CA or any other city in California, which is why working with a San Diego divorce lawyer is essential to the process.

What is Alimony?

Generally, alimony or spousal support is a series of payments made by the higher-earning spouse to the other low-earning spouse. Depending on the type of alimony the court will grant, the higher-earning spouse usually has to pay the other party during the divorce process and after the court finalizes the divorce.

The purpose of alimony in California is to make it easier for the low-earning spouse to transition from being married to single. Alimony aims to help the low-earning spouse to become self-sufficient after the divorce.

The idea of alimony might seem unfair to you, especially if you’re the higher-earning spouse, but the goal of the process is to ensure that both parties will end the marriage on a balanced financial footing. This goal is sometimes impossible to accomplish without additional financial support from the ex-spouse.

What Are The Different Types of Alimony in California?

California courts offer permanent, rehabilitative, and temporary spousal support. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to understand these types to determine which will work in your unique situation.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support is rare in California and is only granted to spouses ending a long-term marriage (at least ten years) where one spouse can’t apply for any job because of a diagnosed illness or advanced age.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support

Rehabilitative spousal support is common in California and is often granted to cases where one spouse became the family’s primary earner, and the other spouse cared for their children and home during the marriage.

The goal of rehabilitative spousal support is to give the low-earning spouse financial support to help them gain valuable education or job skills to become self-supporting after the divorce. This type of alimony aims to increase the chances of the low-earning spouse to live a comfortable life after the marriage by helping them acquire employable skills.

Temporary Spousal Support

A lower-earning spouse may request temporary spousal support from the higher-earning spouse. This type of alimony is often granted from the date of the request until the court finalizes the divorce.

Temporary spousal support aims to help the lower-earning spouse cover daily living expenses throughout the divorce process. Unlike other types of alimony, temporary spousal support is calculated using the California child support guidelines, not the spousal support factors.

How Does The Court Determine Alimony?

Since alimony is gender-neutral, anyone from the marriage can request spousal support from the other. Any spousal support case’s hallmark rule is to prove that the requesting spouse needs financial support, and the other party can provide it. If you’re the low-earning spouse, the court won’t award you with any support if you can’t pass this test.

For temporary support requests, the court will collect financial information about the spouses. The court will use each spouse’s monthly income, assets, expenses, and debt to determine a specific amount for the alimony.

For other types of alimony, the court will look into each of the spouse’s incomes and use the following factors to determine a final amount as alimony:

  •  Any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse
  • The ability of the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support, considering earned and unearned income, earning capacity, the standard of living, and assets
  • The health condition and age of each spouse
  • The balance of hardship to each party (determined by weighing the harm that the low-income spouse will suffer if the higher-income spouse will not provide financial support)
  • The debts, assets, and separate properties of each spouse
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The needs of the spouses based on the marital standard of living
  • Whether anyone from the marriage has documented history of domestic abuse against children or other parties
  • And any other factors that the court wants to consider

With the number of factors to consider when requesting or granting alimony, it’s always best to work with a divorce lawyer throughout the process. They will help you comply with the requirements and ensure that you’re making the most out of the agreement.

How Long Does the Alimony Last?

The low-earning spouse can ask for temporary spousal support starting from the divorce filing date until the day the judge finalizes the divorce. However, an award of temporary spousal support doesn’t guarantee that the court will grant permanent or rehabilitative spousal support afterward.

As for the other types of spousal support (permanent and rehabilitative), the duration depends on the factors listed above and the discretion of the judge. Generally, permanent spousal support ends when the supported spouse decides to remarry or dies, while rehabilitative spousal support ends once the supported spouse gains the necessary education, training, or skills to apply for a job.

How Is Spousal Support Paid?

The payment of spousal support is a court decision. Oftentimes, when the higher-earning spouse owns a significant amount of money or property, the court will allow that spouse to make a lump sum payment of cash or property to the supported spouse.

Making lump-sum payments is beneficial for the supporting spouse because it enables them to save resources from making regular payments. This type of payment method also decreases the possibility of the supported spouse asking for an increase in financial support later.

The supported spouse will also benefit from this payment method as they don’t have to worry about the other party failing to pay the alimony in the future.

There are also instances when the court orders the higher-earning spouse to make periodic payments to the low-earning spouse. With this process, the court will issue an income withholding order addressed to the employer of the supporting spouse. This directs payroll to withdraw alimony from the employee’s paycheck.

Why Should You Hire a San Diego Divorce Lawyer?

You’ll have to go through a lot of hoops regardless if you request or provide alimony to your ex-spouse. The process is overwhelming, especially if you already have a lot of things on your plate.

Fortunately, you can always ask for legal help from a divorce attorney in California when finalizing your divorce and alimony.

If you’re finalizing your divorce, work with a San Diego divorce attorney to make the process easier. Smith Family Law will guide you throughout your divorce and ensure that you won’t have any problems finalizing the amount of your alimony.

Schedule your consultation by calling (619) 431-3131 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. You may also fill out our contact form or utilize our live chat anytime on our website.