5 Must-Know Things About Spousal Support

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsAlimony/spousal support payments to be made after a divorce, by one spouse to the other, are designed to help the partner who is in need of the financial help, lead a life that is somewhat comparable to the circumstances prior to divorce.  However, there are some important things to know about spousal support:

Alimony payments are dictated by need not income

You might believe that you are owed a certain amount by your spouse because they are earning far more than you are, or because you have invested a lot of time and lost out on career opportunities for the sake of your marriage. The reality however, is that the judge will make a decision on what amount you get as spousal support based on a dozen or so factors, depending on which state you are in. And one of the key factors that will come into play will be the perceived need of the spouse who is to receive the payment. Even if your spouse works, you may still have to pay alimony.

Payment of alimony may not be forever

There are a number of different kinds of spousal support, including something called short-term or rehabilitative alimony. This is designed to help one spouse tide over the initial phase after a divorce, where they need the help while they get their finances and life in order. Other kinds of alimony may also cease to be due, if the recipient moves in with a new partner or remarries.

The duration of your marriage matters

When it comes to alimony, the duration of the relationship also comes into play. The same couple going through a divorce after just 2 years of marriage will see a very different outcome and quantum of alimony being payable, compared to a couple that has been together for a couple of decades or more. That’s because the investment in the marriage and the opportunity cost for the spouse earning a lower income as a result of decisions taken to support the marriage, is greater.

You can take legal action if your spouse doesn’t pay up alimony

Once you have an alimony order, your spouse is required by law to give you the required payments as dictated. However, if they fail to do so, you could choose between undertaking an ‘earnings assignment order’ or a take out a ‘contempt’ proceeding. In extreme cases, if no payments are made in spite of a court order, the court could even put your ex in prison to get them to fall in line.

The role kids play in determining alimony

If your soon to be ex is the one with the primary care-giving responsibility for your kids and will continue to look after them after your divorce, the court will, in addition to the child support payments, also likely mandate a longer duration of spousal support. This is done so that he/she can find help and return to a full-time or regular job which they may not have had to do within the marriage. The extra time helps gives them the flexibility to re-qualify and hunt for a job.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”