Spousal Support / Alimony Caring & Effective Legal Advocacy

Los Angeles Alimony & Spousal Support Lawyer

What is Alimony in California?

Under California law, both men and women wishing to divorce may be entitled to spousal support depending upon their financial circumstances. Spousal support can be awarded to one spouse for a short amount of time, long-term, or to fulfill a specific purpose. When there is a significant variance in the earning potential of one spouse from the other, the spouse who earns less may wish to seek spousal support from the other. Alimony is a monthly payment that covers everyday expenses and ensures the financial security of a person after a divorce or separation.

In a divorce settlement, the issue of spousal support will be addressed by the lawyers working on the case. Spousal support includes monthly payments made by one spouse to another in order to assist the other spouse in their pursuit to become financially independent or to maintain the standard of living that they have been accustomed to. These support payments balance the needs of one spouse with the other's ability to pay.

How is California Spousal Support Calculated?

In some marriages, one partner holds a steady job and is responsible for earning a large percentage of the family’s income while the other partner either works part time or has the duty of caring for children and maintaining the household.

In California, there are a few considerations that are taken when awarding a spousal support including:

  • Financials of each spouse before and after the split
  • Ability to work and income potential based on age and education
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Ability of one spouse to pay the other and maintain standard of living
  • Financial obligations to other dependents
  • Reasonable needs of each of the spouses based on age and health
  • Assets awarded in the divorce settlement
  • Income tax consequences
  • Each spouse's separate property, assets, and financial obligations
  • Whether one spouse helped the other obtain a degree, a career, or a professional license
  • The supported spouse's ability to care for the children while working
  • Whether the supported spouse's earning capacity is impaired because of extended periods of unemployment while caring for the home or children
  • The balance of hardship between the spouses

Spousal support lengths can vary. A judge will award spousal support for a determined length of time until the both spouses can be self-sufficient in their earnings. A settlement agreement will highlight the exact stipulations of the divorce which will remain final, unless a modification or termination of support is requested.

Spousal Support Modification in CA

To request an alteration or end to spousal support payments, a written document agreed upon by both parties must be submitted to a judge. This document must provide evidence supporting the claim of a substantial change in circumstances. The court will then evaluate the evidence and make the appropriate modifications to the order.

Some examples of qualifying circumstances include:

  • Change in Income: If either spouse experiences a significant increase or decrease in income, such as through a job loss, promotion, or a change in earning capacity, it may be grounds for modifying the spousal support order.
  • Change in Expenses: If the expenses of either spouse significantly increase or decrease, such as due to health issues, changes in housing costs, or financial obligations, it may justify a modification.
  • Remarriage or Cohabitation: If the supported spouse remarries or enters into a new supportive relationship akin to marriage (cohabitation), it may be a basis for terminating or modifying spousal support.
  • Retirement: If the paying spouse reaches retirement age and experiences a decrease in income or the supported spouse reaches retirement age and has independent means of support, it could be grounds for modifying the spousal support order.

What Are the Different Types of Spousal Support in California?

In California, spousal support, also known as alimony, is the financial assistance provided from one spouse to another during and/or after a divorce or legal separation.

There are several types of spousal support arrangements recognized in California:

  • Temporary Spousal Support: This type of support is awarded during the divorce or separation proceedings and is intended to maintain the financial status quo until a final spousal support order is determined.
  • Permanent Spousal Support: Contrary to its name, permanent spousal support does not necessarily mean lifelong support. It refers to support that is awarded for an indefinite duration until further court order or until the supported spouse remarries or either spouse passes away.
  • Rehabilitative Spousal Support: This type of support is granted to assist the supported spouse in acquiring education, training, or skills necessary to become self-supporting. It aims to provide financial support for a limited period to allow the recipient spouse to become financially independent.
  • Reimbursement Spousal Support: Reimbursement support is awarded when one spouse has made significant contributions to the other spouse's education, career development, or professional training during the marriage. It aims to reimburse the supporting spouse for the expenses incurred.
  • Lump-Sum Spousal Support: In some cases, spouses may agree to a one-time payment or a series of payments to satisfy their spousal support obligations instead of providing ongoing monthly payments.

How a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement Can Affect Alimony

Prenuptial agreements can include clauses that specify whether spousal support will be paid, the amount, and the duration in the event of divorce. Parties can negotiate and agree upon terms that deviate from the default rules under California law.

A prenup can contain provisions where one or both spouses waive their rights to seek spousal support in the event of divorce. However, courts scrutinize these waivers to ensure they are fair and not unconscionable at the time of enforcement.

Similar to prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements can establish terms for spousal support, including amount, duration, and conditions for termination or modification. Postnups can also address changes in circumstances during the marriage, such as career advancements, inheritances, or changes in financial status, which may affect spousal support obligations.

Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements must meet certain legal requirements to be valid and enforceable in California, such as full financial disclosure, voluntariness, and fairness. Additionally, they cannot include provisions that violate public policy or infringe upon child support obligations.

What to Do If Your Spouse is Withholding Alimony Payments

If a spouse is withholding alimony payments in California, you must take appropriate steps to address the issue promptly. Here's what you can do:

  1. Review the Divorce Agreement: Start by reviewing the divorce decree or separation agreement to ensure that there are clear provisions outlining the terms of alimony payments, including the amount, duration, and payment schedule.
  2. Communicate with Your Ex-Spouse: If your ex-spouse is behind on alimony payments, try to communicate with them first. Politely remind them of their obligation to pay alimony as per the court order or agreement. Sometimes, misunderstandings or financial difficulties can lead to missed payments.
  3. Document the Non-Payment: Keep detailed records of the missed alimony payments, including dates, amounts, and any communication with your ex-spouse regarding the payments. Documentation will be crucial if you need to take legal action later.
  4. Send a Formal Demand Letter: If informal communication does not resolve the issue, consider sending a formal demand letter to your ex-spouse, requesting the immediate payment of the outstanding alimony and outlining the consequences of continued non-payment.
  5. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with a family law attorney in California who can help you understand your rights and legal options. They can review your case, assess the best course of action, and represent your interests if further legal steps are necessary.
  6. File a Motion for Enforcement: If informal methods fail to resolve the issue, you may need to file a motion for enforcement with the court that issued the divorce decree. This motion asks the court to enforce the alimony order and compel your ex-spouse to make the required payments. The court may impose penalties, such as fines or even jail time, for non-compliance with court orders.
  7. Consider Modification: In some cases, financial circumstances may have changed since the alimony order was issued. If you or your ex-spouse are experiencing financial hardship, you may consider seeking a modification of the alimony order to reflect the current situation.
  8. Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation or arbitration can sometimes be effective ways to resolve disputes over alimony payments without resorting to lengthy and costly court proceedings. A neutral third party can help facilitate negotiations and reach a mutually acceptable solution.

Get Representation from our Los Angeles Alimony Attorneys

Spousal support may be temporary or permanent, depending upon the needs of each spouse. There are a number of factors that will determine the length of time spousal support will be provided for, and the amount of spousal support to be given. Your spousal support order could have widespread implications upon your life after divorce, so it is important to have an experienced Los Angeles spousal support lawyer from Claery & Hammond, LLP advocating on your behalf.

If you are interested in obtaining spousal support following the dissolution of your marriage, or if you want to make sure your rights are protected, call our team at Claery & Hammond, LLP. The spousal support attorneys at our Los Angeles law firm are experienced in negotiating and establishing spousal support in situations of divorce, and they will work hard to get you the financial support you need to ensure your previous way of life.

For help with spousal support and alimony, contact a Los Angeles spousal support attorney at Claery & Hammond, LLP. Call us at (310) 817-6904!

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