Everything you need to know about spousal support
When a marriage ends, it’s not always easy for both spouses to maintain the same standard of living. Spousal support awards are designed to help with this by providing financial support from one spouse to the other.
But what exactly is spousal support and how does it work?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about spousal maintenance.
What is spousal support?
Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a legal term used in some jurisdictions to refer to payments made by one spouse to another following a divorce or legal separation. The purpose of the financial support is to ensure that both spouses have the same standard of living after the marriage ends and not put you into financial hardship.
Spousal support is not to be confused with child support, which is a separate legal obligation that may also be ordered by the court following a divorce or separation.
If you are in a child custody dispute, we can also help you with your child support legal issue.
What are the two types of spousal support?
There are two types of spousal maintenance, and you may need to pay alimony on a temporary or permanent basis:
- Temporary spousal support: In this type of alimony the court typically orders short-term support, pending the finalization of the divorce or separation. Once the divorce or separation is finalized by support orders, the temporary spousal support will usually end.
- Permanent spousal support: This type of alimony is typically ordered by the court as part of the final divorce or separation decree. Unlike temporary support, permanent spousal support does not have an expiration date and will continue until either spouse dies or remarries.
How is Alimony calculated?
In California, determining spousal maintenance (aka alimony) is impacted by many factors, including:
- The marketable skills of each spouse
- The extent to which the spouse seeking spousal support contributed to the education or training of the spouse
- The ability of the spouse to pay spousal maintenance, taking into account their earning capacity, income, and assets
- The assets of each party
- The needs of each party
- The duration of the marriage
- The ability of the supporting spouse to work without interfering with the needs of the children.
- The age and health of the parties
- The tax consequences for each party
- History of domestic violence
The court will also consider any previous agreements between the spouses regarding support (typically negotiated by your spousal support lawyer).
Once the divorce court has considered all of these factors, it will determine the amount of alimony to be paid and the duration of the alimony.
In most cases, alimony payments are made every month.
How long do the alimony payments last?
The length of time that an alimony award will be ordered will also depend on various factors, such as the length of the marriage and the needs of the divorcing couple. In many cases, spousal support is only temporary, lasting only long enough for the receiving spouse to get back on their feet financially and get back to a normal earning capacity. However, in some cases, alimony may be ordered for a longer period, or even indefinitely (permanent support).
Can spousal support be changed or terminated?
Yes, spousal support can be changed, and terminating spousal support can be done under certain circumstances. For example, if the receiving spouse remarries, spousal support will typically be terminated. Additionally, if either one experiences a change in financial circumstances, the court may modify the amount of the long-term spousal support being paid.
Finally, either party can request that the court review the spousal support order if there has been a significant change in circumstances. If the court finds that there has been a change in circumstances, it may modify or terminate the spousal court order.
Keep in mind that each legal issue is unique and determined on a case-by-case basis…the law surrounding spousal support can be complex. It’s always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your specific circumstances.
What are the tax implications of spousal support?
Spousal support payments are considered taxable income to the recipient and tax-deductible expenses for the payor. Due to the tax consequences, the recipient must pay taxes on the spousal support they receive, and the payor can deduct the payments from their taxes. The tax implications of spousal support can be complex, so it’s always best to consult with a tax advisor or accountant to discuss your specific divorce or legal separation.
What are the consequences of not paying spousal support?
If you are ordered to pay spousal support and you fail to make the payments, you may be held in contempt of court. This means that you can be fined or even jailed. Additionally, the court may order that your wages be garnished to collect the overdue payments.
If you are having difficulty making your spousal support payments, it’s important to consult with an experienced law firm as soon as possible. They can help you understand your options and protect your rights.
How to get the most out of your spousal support agreement?
It’s important to have a clear and concise spousal support agreement to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding down the road. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your spousal maintenance agreement:
- Be clear about the purpose of the alimony. Is it to help with living expenses, education costs, or something else?
- Determine how long the spousal maintenance will last. Will they be paid for a set period, or indefinitely?
- Consider the tax implications of the financial payments. Who will be responsible for paying taxes on the payments?
- Make sure that all of the terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable. Once the agreement is signed, it will be difficult to make changes, so it’s important to get it right the first time.
- Have an experienced spousal support lawyer review the agreement before you sign it. They can help you understand the implications of the agreement and protect your rights.
What to do if your ex doesn’t pay spousal support?
If your ex-spouse fails to make their spousal support payments, there are a few things you can do. First, you can contact knowledgeable spousal support lawyers to discuss your options. They can help you file a contempt of court action against your ex-spouse, which could result in them being fined or even jailed. Additionally, the court may order that their wages be garnished to collect the overdue payments.
Another option is to file a claim with the state’s child support enforcement agency. If your ex-spouse is behind on their payments, the agency can take steps to collect the delinquent payments from them.
Finally, you can also try to negotiate a payment plan with your former spouse. If they are willing to cooperate, you can work out a plan that is acceptable to both of you.
What if the paying spouse remarries?
If the paying recipient spouse remarries, he or she is no longer obligated to make spousal support payments.
How can I get started receiving spousal support?
If you are seeking spousal maintenance, the first step is to consult with an experienced family law attorney. They can help you understand your rights and options, and determine what type of support would be appropriate in your situation.
Once you have a clear understanding of what you’re entitled to, you can start negotiating with your former spouse. If you can reach an agreement, you can then have the agreement memorialized in a court order or settlement agreement.
Next, you’ll need to file a petition with the court. The petition must be served on your spouse, who will then have the opportunity to respond. Once the petition and response have been filed, the court will set a hearing date.
At the hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to present their case. The court will then decide regarding spousal support.
If you’re going through a divorce, chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed. You need someone on your side who understands the law and can help guide you through the process.
The decisions you make during your divorce will have a lasting impact on your life. You need an experienced lawyer who will fight for what’s best for you.
At the Law Offices of William M. Strachan, we have over 34 years of experience representing clients in spousal support disputes. We understand the law inside and out, and we’ll fight for what’s best for you.