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How is Alimony and Spousal Support determined?

Paying alimony

Spousal support, or alimony is a means of support ordered by the family court in which one party must make monthly payments to their former spouse or partner. The family court will consider one party’s request to receive spousal support in the event of divorce, legal separation, annulment, or a restraining order for domestic violence. The support can be temporary, which will be paid while the case is ongoing, or permanent, which is ordered as part of the final judgment and will be paid long-term. In many situations, one partner will seek support as part of the final judgment, and it is solely the judge’s discretion whether or not spousal support should be awarded.

The judge will not use a formula to decide whether support should be ordered and how much should be awarded; rather, the judge will consider the factors included in California Family Code section 4320:

  • The length of the couple’s marriage or domestic partnership.
  • The age and health of both parties.
  • The needs of each party based on their standard of living during the union.
  • Each party’s ability to pay to retain that standard of living (earnings and earning capacity).
  • Whether having a job would make it too difficult to care for the children, if the main caregiver.
  • Each party’s debts and properties.
  • Whether one party helped the other obtain their education, career, training, or professional license.
  • Whether there was any domestic violence during the union.
  • Whether one party’s career was impacted by unemployment or caring for the children or the home.
  • The impact support would have on taxes.

Earning capacity is often a key part of the judge’s decision, as it significantly impacts the parties’ abilities to retain the same standard of living they had during the union. In order to determine the earning capacity of the party seeking support, the judge will assess the following:

  • Their marketable skills.
  • The job market available for those skills.
  • Time and expense needed to obtain proper training or education to get a job or develop more marketable skills.
  • Extent that their earning capacity was impaired by unemployment while they were devoted to caring for the couple’s children or other domestic duties.

If you are seeking support from your spouse or if the judge is considering whether you should be ordered to make support payments, it is important to ensure your rights and interests are protected. Do not hesitate to enlist the powerful advocacy of my firm for your legal proceedings.

Can spousal support be changed?
In some situations, one party may seek to have the support order modified for one reason or another. The court will consider modification of the order if the requesting party has experienced a change in circumstances. This means there has been a significant change since the order was originally made, and could include a number of factors, including:

  • The supported party no longer needs it.
  • The party paying support can longer afford to do so because of the loss of a job or severe drop in income.
  • One party becomes seriously ill.
  • The supported party is not making a reasonable effort to become self-supporting.

Spousal support is not always permanent and it can end because of a court decision to terminate the order, one party dies, or because the supported party enters a new marriage or domestic partnership. If you are facing the modification process, my firm can protect your rights and provide you with a strong voice before the family judge.

Choose Unique and Experienced Representation
Alimony and spousal support can be complex matters that must be approached sensitively. Important matters needing address are the size and source of family income at the time of separation and divorce, the balance of past financial contributions of each spouse and the potential education, training and other support that might be needed by a spouse who could suddenly be faced with the prospect of having to enter a job or career market. I bring a broad, focused and unique lifetime of legal experience to your alimony and other spousal support needs:

  • Certified Family Law Specialist in North and Northeast San Diego County
  • Judge Pro Tem for Family Law Trials and Settlement Conferences
  • Mediator in Family Law Cases

Contact the office of Gordon G. Meyer, a Certified Family Law Specialist, who has 43 years of experience in Family Law and Child Custody cases.  Call 619-855-4070 for an appointment today.

Serving the communities of Poway, Rancho Penasquitos, Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Escondido and North San Diego county.