Alimony Lawyers in San Diego Guiding Clients Through the Process of Requesting or Modifying Alimony Payments in California
Alimony or spousal support is one of many important issues that need to be discussed as a part of the divorce process. But how does alimony work in California, and who is eligible to receive it? Get answers to common questions about California alimony and see how an alimony attorney may be able to help you.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is also referred to as spousal support, and it is a court-ordered payment that one spouse makes to help cover the other spouse’s basic living expenses. Alimony paid between a couple that is or was married is called spousal support, whereas a couple with a domestic partnership may pay or receive domestic partner support. Both types work similarly and are meant to provide the spouse or partner that earns the least income with the means to support themselves during and after a divorce and allow them to regain skills that would enable them to re-enter the job market after giving up their careers for the sake of caring for children or the home.
In California, alimony payments can be temporary or long-term. Temporary alimony payments can be ordered while a divorce is still pending, while long-term alimony (also called permanent support orders) are made at the end of a case as part of the final judgment. It is worth noting that temporary alimony orders can be ordered as a part of legal separation and also as a part of a domestic violence restraining order case.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Alimony in California?
In California, alimony orders are gender-neutral, meaning either spouse can request the judge an alimony order during the divorce or as a means to help support themselves after the divorce. The spouse who earns the higher income may be ordered to make support payments to the spouse who earns the lower income.
When it comes to determining whether a spouse should receive long-term alimony and for how long, a judge may use a variety of factors, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning abilities to maintain their standard of living, the age and health of each spouse, their debts and assets, and the receiving spouse’s ability to become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time.
How Are Alimony Payments Calculated and How Long Do They Last?
California alimony payments are calculated in a way that is supposed to allow ex-spouses to maintain a similar standard of living as they enjoyed during the marriage. Temporary alimony payments are calculated using a formula that deducts a percentage of the high earner’s monthly net income from the low earner’s monthly net income. Each court can use this calculation as a guideline or else use alternative formulas to define the number of temporary alimony payments. Temporary alimony payments last while the divorce process is still pending and is terminated once the case is finalized.
However, there is no set formula to determine payment amounts when it comes to long-term alimony payments. A judge may use a variety of factors (discussed previously), including the length of the marriage, to determine how much each monthly payment should be and how many years they should last. Generally speaking, a judge may order alimony payments to last for half the length of the marriage – for example, if a couple was married for eight years, alimony may last for four years. This is a commonly used guideline, but the judge can also decide that payments should last longer or end sooner than half the length of the marriage. The goal is to give the lower-income spouse the means needed to become self-supporting.
Can Alimony Payments Be Modified?
Once an alimony order is final, it will contain details about the frequency and manner in which alimony payments should be made. The most common arrangement is for monthly payments to be withdrawn from the paying spouse’s wages through an income withholding order filed with that spouse’s employer. If a spouse fails to make support payments or falls behind, the spouse that was supposed to be receiving the payments may request that a judge enforce the spousal support order, and there could be significant consequences for the paying spouse. For that reason, it is important to know that either spouse cannot change any aspect of the alimony order without authorization from the court. That means you may not stop paying alimony or pay a lesser amount without an approved modification request.
Either spouse can petition the court for a modification request seeking to increase the payment amount, lower the payment amount, extend the duration of payments or shorten the duration of payments, as long as they can demonstrate that the change is justifiable due to significant changes in their life circumstances. The exception to that rule is if you and your spouse have agreed that alimony may not be modified. It is always best to consult a San Diego alimony attorney to discuss the steps required for an alimony modification request.
Do I Need to Pay Taxes on Alimony Payments?
Alimony payments used to be tax-deductible for the paying spouse and counted as income for the receiving spouse for tax purposes. However, changes enacted in 2019 eliminated tax deductions for spouses paying alimony, and spousal support payments are no longer counted as taxable income for the recipient.
However, it is important to understand that those changes only apply at a federal level for divorces that were finalized after 2019. Those living in the state of California should still report any received support payments as taxable income on their state tax returns, and paying spouses can still deduct payments from income on their returns.
How Can a San Diego Alimony Lawyer Help?
As you can see, there are no hard-and-fast rules for determining alimony eligibility in California nor for calculating the amount a spouse should receive each month. In addition, the California laws that govern family law, divorce, and support matters are not always easy to understand, leading to the creation of a few myths and hearsay, such as the idea that after ten years of marriage, a judge may order permanent alimony that lasts indefinitely, or that you may have to pay your spouse back for alimony money you received. Only a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney can help you truly understand how the laws apply to your case and give you clear, straightforward answers to your questions, dispelling myths and helping you be more aware of your rights.
In addition, it may be hard to think clearly or know where to begin if you are going through a turbulent time, such as divorce. During difficult times, it is crucial to be able to count on the guidance and knowledge of a San Diego alimony attorney who can help you make informed decisions and take the proper steps to reach your goals.
No matter what side you are on – whether you are a spouse struggling to keep making alimony payments or a lower-income spouse needing support to become self-sufficient after a long marriage – the attorneys at Khosroabadi & Hill are here to help. If you wish to get answers about alimony in California or would like to discuss your case, reach out to our San Diego office by calling 858-240-2093 and requesting a no-commitment consultation to learn more.