In certain situations, California courts order the payment of spousal support, known as partner support in domestic partnerships. Sometimes referred to as alimony, spousal support payments can be ordered only in certain legal situations with the amount of support determined by the judge.
A request for spousal or partner support can be made as part of a divorce or legal separation or as part of a request for a restraining order against a current or former partner or spouse. A judge may order payment of temporary spousal or partner support during the legal proceedings and may order permanent spousal or partner support as part of a final divorce or separation decree.
The amount of temporary spousal support is generally determined by a formula. The courts in each county have established their own formulas. For permanent spousal or partner support, the judge is required to consider a set of factors listed in state law. These factors include the length of the marriage or domestic partnership, the needs of each individual, the earning capacity of each individual, debts and assets, whether one partner helped support the other partner while working on a degree or professional license and whether the marriage or domestic partnership was affected by domestic violence.
Spousal and partner support is such a complex issue that the California courts recommend that an individual seeking support payments consult a lawyer or a family law facilitator for the particular court. A private attorney or family law facilitator may be able to explain how spousal or partner support is calculated and how long the payments may last. He or she may also be able to help the individual seeking support to complete the forms that are required in order to request spousal or partner support.
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.