Too many stay in unsatisfying or even bruising marriages because they believe the rumors friends and family members tell them about alimony.
Have you heard these?
“Alimony is an absolute right.” False. In California, the courts have broad discretion to deny spousal support completely. Just 10 to 15% of California divorces or separations include spousal support in the final divorce judgment.
“After 10 years, alimony is guaranteed for life.” No again. Temporary spousal support is initially determined by the “dissomaster, ™” a computer program that weighs income, custody, child care expenses, insurance premiums and more before determining which spouse pays what. Those who want to get an idea of what potential alimony may be can check California’s Child Support Calculator, (a tool similar to the online mortgage calculators) to estimate what alimony could amount to. Keep in mind, however, that this figure is not the final amount as it does not include all factors listed in California Family Code Section 4320. Good attorneys fight for appropriate amounts based on more subtle factors as well.
“Spousal support isn’t due until the judge determines it at trial.” While California divorces that go to trial can take 18 to 24 months to appear before a judge, divorcing partners file an “Order to Show Cause,” which a judge rules on in 14 days. This order stipulates temporary spousal support. Neither spouse is left without a way to survive.
With those common misperceptions out of the way, we’d like to answer the most common questions we receive in our San Diego offices.
How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay and for How Long?
This simple question unfortunately has a long and complex answer. As we mention above, each partner submits documentation on income, expenses, child care expenses, insurance and more. A conscientious attorney will guide his or her client through which documents to submit. The Dissomaster comes up a figure and partners and their attorneys undergo more negotiations until an agreement is reached or the matter goes to trial.
How and When Do I Ask for Alimony?
If you’re only dealing with family court and not an attorney, you ask for alimony during the divorce proceeding, typically when you first file with your “Order to Show Cause.” The judge will rule on temporary spousal support until your divorce is finalized. If the partners agree on spousal support, ask the judge to make the agreement as part of the court order.
I Don’t Need Alimony Now. Can I Change My Mind Later?
You cannot change your mind and get alimony after the divorce is final. If you want alimony, you must petition for it during the initial divorce proceeding.
Can Men Actually Win Alimony?
Absolutely. Men win alimony in California courts every day. If a female partner makes more money or a father has sacrificed his career to provide childcare, judges often rule for a portion of the woman’s income to be diverted to her spouse.
How Long Am I Guaranteed Alimony?
Should you come to an agreement with your spouse, you will receive alimony for the amount of time you stipulate. If you cannot agree, the judge decides for you. If the judge awards “indefinite” or “permanent” alimony, payments continue until either spouse dies or the court deems it inappropriate (in the case of re-marriage, for instance.)
Will Affairs Impact the Amount of Spousal Support?
No. California is a no-fault jurisdiction, meaning that only income and expenses figure in to spousal support determinations. If an ex-partner is living with someone, however, his or her expenses will be lower, and less support should be needed.
Will Getting Remarried Interfere with My Alimony?
Not necessarily. First, the ex-spouse paying the alimony must file an order asking the court to terminate or reduce alimony because of your remarriage.
What Happens When My Spouse Want to Pay Me Less that What I Need to Live On?
In these cases, if the matters cannot be agreed upon outside of court, a judge decides. The judge will take into consideration:
length of the marriage
ages of divorcing partners
physical and mental conditions of both partners
your ability to support yourself
time and training necessary to enable you to support yourself
the standard of living to which you’ve become accustomed
ability of paying spouse to support him or herself while paying alimony
financial assets of each party including homes, investments, retirement benefits and more.
What Is the Difference Between Alimony and “Separate Maintenance?”
Alimony is paid upon divorce. Judges and court orders stipulate “separate maintenance” when the ex-spouses desire to stay married but live apart.
My Ex Just Got a Big Raise, Can I Receive More Alimony?
No. Post-separation earnings cannot be a basis for awarding more support than that stipulated in the divorce decree. Your children may be entitled to more child support, however.
My Ex Just Got a Big Raise; Can I Lower My Alimony Payments?
Yes. When the supported spouse starts earning more, they have less need for alimony. Once again, a trip to court is in order.
I Was Just Laid Off. Can I Pay Less Alimony?
Yes, but you must file for a temporary abatement of support. If you cannot get a job at the compensation level you had when the divorce was finalized, you may be able to get a permanent spousal support reduction.
Father’s Rights Law Center
The prospect of paying and winning alimony intimidates all divorcing partners. Often, homes, insurance and sufficient funds to care for children are at stake. These practical aspects of life come with significant emotional baggage. Rest assured that the courts strive primarily for the well-being of the children. They no longer “favor” either mothers or fathers, men or women. When no children are present, they divide the assets as the law prescribes, not according to who cheated, who made the travel arrangements or who did the shopping.
Divorce doesn’t have to be a financial disaster. Making the best decisions up front saves you money long term. If you or a friend is undergoing a divorce, marital dissolution or custody battle, we can help. We’re happy to provide a complimentary consultation to answer the many questions you probably have that we didn’t cover above. Call us at 1-800-4-LAW-HELP to speak with an attorney today!