Alimony is referred to as “spousal support” in California, and is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses. Spousal support payments are not the same as child support, especially since spousal support payments are often decided upon by the judge’s discretion instead of based on calculations usually set forth by the state when determining child support payments.
When applicable, spousal support / alimony payments will be made after the filing of a dissolution to help support the other spouse. The spouse that receives alimony will pay federal and state income taxes on it, and the spouse making alimony payments will be entitled to a tax deduction.
Some divorcing couples will not need alimony and will not request that payments be made.
Because circumstances can change, however, one spouse may ask the judge to “reserve jurisdiction” to order alimony in the future should unexpected loss or discontinuation of income occur like illness or the loss of a job. In certain situations one of the spouses can go back to the court and ask the judge to change the amount of alimony. A judge can order a wage assignment that directs a spouse’s employer to pay spousal support directly to the other spouse should he/she feel it is necessary.
Fault based divorce in most jurisdictions ended in the 1970s and 80s, and these changes affected divorce proceedings and changed divorce litigation. In response, uncontested divorces made quicker, cheaper and less messy splits obtainable, but the concept was inconsistent with the conception of alimony. In addition to changes allowing no-fault grounds for divorce, the legal rules justifying assumption of a wife’s dependency also disappeared.
Many states have statutes authorizing courts to make alimony determinations after considering a list of factors, and a spouse can ask for alimony while a case is going on, called a “temporary spousal support order” or “temporary partner support order”. Many California counties will have a formula for calculating temporary alimony, but the judge will not use a formula to calculate how much alimony to order at the end of the divorce case.
Considering factors in California Family Code section 4320, the judge will reach a final decision. Alimony is a tricky legal issue because there are many determinations that can be difficult to understand since it is not based on predetermined calculations. A San Diego family law attorney can notify you of how much alimony may be ordered, how long it may last and how it might affect your taxes.
If you have questions regarding spousal support in California, contact our San Diego alimony lawyers to learn more about how we can help you.