Couples facing divorce in California may wonder about the rules governing alimony. Often called spousal support in the state, orders regarding payments can begin when the divorce or separation is filed in civil court. In cases where a restraining order is issued, the court may also order spousal support payments.
Generally, the party that earns more pays spousal support to the other person. The court considers several factors when calculating permanent alimony. In addition, while the divorce process is ongoing, a spouse may ask for temporary alimony, which is determined by specific formulas.
The court looks to the amount a spouse receiving alimony needs to duplicate the standard of living during the marriage. The court also examines the financial status and age of both spouses in addition to the duration of the marriage. Other points that judges might consider include the contribution a non-working spouse made to the other spouse’s career or education and the earning potential of a non-working spouse, which depends on the length of time they have been out of the workforce and whether their skills are marketable. In some cases, one party may need training or education, and the court may order rehabilitative alimony, which is provided until the spouse achieves financial independence. Some couples agree to a lump-sum alimony payment or set up spousal support payments that reimburse a spouse for specific expenses.
If circumstances change while spousal support is being paid, the paying party may ask the court to modify the obligation. When spousal support is not paid as ordered, the receiving party may ask the court to enforce the obligation.
A family law attorney may help by offering insight into an individual’s rights and responsibilities when considering alimony. The attorney may also assist in structuring a viable spousal support agreement or help in subsequent modifications.