CaliforniaAlimony Guide - Spousal Support Laws
California Alimony Guide :: Table of Contents
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered provision of financial support a spouse for after a divorce. Alimony laws vary considerably from state to state, and courts often have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis in determing whether to award alimony, how much alimony to award, and how long alimony payments will continue.
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In the state of California, a divorced spouse, or an individual going through divorce, may file for spousal support, otherwise known as alimony. When spousal support is applied for, there are many circumstances that are taken into consideration by the court and judge deciding the case.
The ability of each party to maintain the same standard of living that they had over the course of the marriage is one of the main considerations for spousal support. Included within the previous consideration is the marketable skills each of the parties has and the current job market for those skills as well as any education or training needed to maintain or acquire those skills. The extent to which either spouse supported the other’s current or potential earning ability with their own time or by sacrificing the promotion of their own potential earning ability is also heavily considered, this includes things such as helping pay for education of the spouse or other such examples.
The duration of the marriage and the monetary contributions of both parties to the success of the marriage and well being of each other are all factors considered heavily. The ability of the party expected to pay spousal support to afford these payments is another main consideration, clearly, if they are unable to contribute, they may not be required to, but other restrictions or requirements may be made. The assets and property of both parties may be considered during the case, but certain things, often possessions acquired before or separate from the relationship, may not be considered.
Custody of any children, and any child support required between parties of the divorce is another factor in the amount and consideration of spousal support. If the custodian of the children is unable to support themselves due to the children being of an age or condition that it hinders the individual’s ability to support the child, such as if they must remain home to care for the child, it would severely influence the case for alimony to be received by the custodian of said child or children.
In the end, if an agreement cannot be made between the two parties, alimony is awarded at the final judgment of the judge and court deciding the case.
In the state of California, a number of factors are taken into account when calculating the amount and duration of alimony or spousal support payments.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating alimony?
California has a defined list of factors, described in statutory law, that are legally required to be considered by a judge when determining alimony payments. These factors may be directly connected to the alimony calculation formula.
Is marital fault considered in California alimony?
California does not consider marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that divorces considered "at-fault" due to cheating or infidelity, abuse, or other factors do not affect the calculation of alimony payments.
Is standard of living considered in California alimony?
Standard of living is considered when calculating alimony payments in the state of California. This means that a judge will consider the lifestyle enjoyed by the alimony-receiving spouse during the duration of the marriage when determining an appropriate alimony payment amount.
Is custodial status considered when determining alimony in the state of California?
The judge in the state of California considers custodial status when determining alimony payments. This means that alimony calculations are affected by whether or not the receiving spouse has custody of the children, and custodial spouses may receive higher alimony payments.
How exactly is alimony calculated in the state of California?
Calculation of alimony is generally done on a case-by-case basis by the California family court judge who is responsible for the case. While some states have a fixed alimony calculation formula, in most cases the final amount and duration of alimony awarded (if alimony is awarded) is at the discretion of the judge.
- How long must alimony be paid?
- The duration of payments is determined by a judge in California family court. Alimony length is usually based on length of marriage - one commonly used standard for alimony duration is that 1 year of alimony is paid every three years of marriage (however, this is not always the case in every state or with every judge). Alimony may also be discontinued upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. In some cases, judges may even award permanent alimony.
- What happens if alimony isn't paid?
- If alimony is unpaid, the owed debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony.
- Can alimony be waived by a prenuptual agreement?
- A prenup agreement is a contract between spouses regarding marriage-related financial matters signed prior to marriage. Limitation or waiving rights to alimony is a frequent clause in modern prenuptual agreements, but some states or localities prohibit such alimony waivers.
- Can alimony be collected if you're not married?
- The legal concept of alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is dependant upon a legal marriage. However, in some areas - especially those with a concept of common-law marriage - "palimony", or support payments between non-married individuals, has been awarded by courts. However, this generally requires extenuating circumstances.
- What is alimony mediation?
When a marriage ends through divorce and alimony is expected to be paid, spouses have the choice to determine an alimony agreement either through litigation (in California family court) or through mutual agreement. Often, a California alimony mediator can be brought in to help the ex-spouses come to a mutual agreement regarding alimony and other contested issues such as property division, and thus avoid having to go to court.
- How are alimony payments taxed?
On a federal level, all qualifying California alimony payments are deductible by the payor, and counted as taxable income by the recipient. To qualify as alimony under IRS guidelines, the following must be true:
- The payments are in cash
- The parties live in seperate households
- The payments are strictly for alimony (as opposed to for child support, etc)
Taxation of alimony varies on a state and local level. You can learn more about California income taxes here .