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Family Spousal Support

If you are contemplating a divorce, or in the beginning stages of a divorce or dissolution of marriage, you may be wondering whether you will be required to pay spousal support, also called alimony, or whether you may receive spousal support, or alimony. (The terms spousal support and alimony are used interchangeably).

In California it should be noted that there may be temporary orders for payment of spousal support pending the dissolution of marriage becoming final, as well as the orders that the judge makes when you are entering into the final stages of your divorce and obtaining what is known as a Judgment, (where the divorce and all issues appurtenant thereto have been resolved or decided).

This article focuses primarily on the orders regarding spousal support that are made when the dissolution becomes final. Spousal support is an issue that is highly discretionary with the judge. The law on this issue, the California Family Code, sets forth numerous factors that the judges are supposed to evaluate in determining when and how to order someone to pay spousal support.

Some of those factors are the relative income of the parties, the earning capacity of each party, the length of the marriage, the decisions made by the parties during the marriage such as one party staying home to raise the children, and more. Courts in theory, are supposed to favor a spouse becoming self supporting. For example, if a husbands income is substantially greater than wife’s, but the parties have a rental property with a positive cash flow, in theory the spouse may get the rental property, and therefore by virtue of receiving the rental profits every month, would not need spousal support.

Another factor that courts give a substantial amount of weight is the length of the marriage. If you have been married for over ten years, that is considered a long term marriage in California and if you are the pay-or, as far as spousal support is concerned, it is possible that you will be required to pay to your ex-spouse support for a substantial period of time. If you have been married upwards of 20-30 years, and you are the pay-or, it is likely that you may have to pay support for the rest of your life.

The thought of paying your ex spouse every month for the rest of your life makes many people cringe. If that is the case and you are concerned you may want to express to your attorney that you are willing to relinquish your interest in some other asset in lieu of spousal support or fashion some other arrangement so that you can minimize your chances of being obligated to an ex spouse, such as handing over a rental property or a similar asset to allow the spouse to be self supporting.

Because spousal support is such a discretionary issue with the court, it can sometimes be more complex than meets the eye. However, if you are adamant about not wanting to pay spousal support, express that to your attorney and perhaps a settlement offer may be fashioned so that your spouse is still getting a benefit, but  not in the form of you having to write a check every month.

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