Spousal support or “alimony” determinations can be among the most complicated parts of a contested divorce. Although the court is generally required to award child support in a divorce, this is not the case for alimony.
Temporary spousal support arrangements are often ordered pending a post-judgment alimony award. Permanent alimony arrangements and amounts are determined based on several factors, and judges have a large amount of discretion in setting spousal support amounts.
Spousal support can be ordered on a temporary basis for the duration of a divorce proceeding, on a rehabilitative basis for a fixed duration or until the supported spouse becomes sufficiently self-supporting, or on a permanent basis until death or remarriage of the supported spouse.
Reimbursement support can also be ordered, to reimburse one spouse for expenses incurred on behalf of the other during the marriage, such as education expenses. A reimbursement support award is more likely if the expenses occurred recently, and is typically paid out over time, although in some cases it can be ordered on a lump sum basis.
Lump-sum alimony can also be ordered in other circumstances, usually in lieu of property in the context of division of assets in a divorce.
The duration of spousal support awards will generally be limited to half the length of a marriage that lasted less than 10 years. There may be no specific limit set upon the duration of alimony payments with regard to a marriage of longer than 10 years duration, although the modern court tends to look upon the entitlement to spousal support as being limited to the time required for the supported party to become self-sufficient.
When weighing an alimony decision, judges in California must consider the following circumstances:
- The earning capacity of each party to the divorce, and the extent to which this amount is sufficient to preserve the same standard of living that existed during the marriage. Such earning capacity will include the employable work skills of the party to receive spousal support, and the employment market for such skills.
- The cost and time involved for ongoing training to develop these skills and make them more marketable.
- The cost and time involved for retraining to gain new employable skills.
- Whether and to what extent the party to receive alimony was unemployed in order to take on domestic duties during the marriage, and to what extent this unemployment had a negative impact on current and future income capacity.
- Whether and to what extent the receiving party contributed to the education and career advancement of the other spouse during the marriage.
- The current assets, debts and financial obligations of each party.
- How long the marriage lasted.
- How and to what extent attending to the best interests of children from the marriage in the custody of the receiving party may impact the receiving party’s ability to earn income.
- Each party’s health and age.
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse, and associated emotional distress, of either party against the other.
- The tax ramifications to each party of a support award.
- The balance of hardships likely to be experienced by the two parties as a result of the support award in question.
Contact Lurkis, Joyce & Del Bove today
The dedicated, experienced alimony attorneys at the family law firm of Lurkis, Joyce & Del Bove, LLP represent clients in spousal support proceedings and all matters related to alimony & spousal support throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.