Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is intended to allow a spouse who earned lower or no wages during the marriage to continue the standard of living they had during the marital years. Unlike child support, in which each parent’s financial obligation is largely based on a child support calculation, there are no fixed guidelines for spousal support. While there are guidelines for temporary spousal support in California, longer-term alimony is generally negotiated, and the court will look at a number of factors in making an alimony award. These include the following:
- How long were you married? The general rule-of-thumb is that the duration of spousal support will equal approximately half the number of years the marriage lasted. In other words, if you were married for eight years, spousal support is paid for four years. This is the “reasonable period of time” until which it is likely the recipient of alimony will be able to obtain the education or training they need to become self-sufficient. However, this is at the discretion of the judge. If a marriage lasted ten years or more, an end-date is less likely to be set.
- What was the standard of living during the marriage? How much money will be required to maintain the standard of living to which a spouse was accustomed, and how much can the person paying alimony afford and still maintain his or her standard of living?
- Will having a job interfere unduly with taking care of children? If so, it will have an influence on a spousal support award. Also, was a spouse’s career affected by being the main provider of childcare or homemaking?
- What is the age and health of each spouse? The court may deem it is unreasonable to expect a spouse who suffers from ill health or is at or near retirement age to be self-sufficient.
- Did one spouse help the other spouse get an education, training or a professional license? If so, they likely made a substantial contribution to their spouse’s earning capacity.
- What are the debts and assets? Both will be taken into consideration.
- Is there a history of domestic violence? Documented evidence of domestic violence is always considered. For the person who was the victim of abuse, the judge takes into account their emotional distress. If the person seeking spousal support has been convicted of domestic violence within a five-year period, there will be “rebuttal presumption”—meaning that the court will not award alimony to the abuser.
The Tax Factor
For most of the last half of the 20th century and through the end of 2018, alimony was tax deductible to the spouse who paid and reportable by the spouse who received support. As of January 1, 2019, the laws change . If your divorce was finalized on or before December 31, 2018, the old laws will apply. If your divorce is finalized on or after January 1, 2019, you will be subject to the new laws.
What Additional Questions do You Have about California Alimony?
Spousal support is a complex matter that can have a significant impact on your financial security. If you live in the Monterey, Gilroy, or Hollister area and want to learn more about your choices and options, please contact us online or call Giuliano Law at (831) 372-4003 and speak with a Monterey spousal support attorney.