Irvine Spousal Support Attorney
If you earn significantly more income than your spouse, or if your spouse earns significantly more income than you, then spousal support (or “alimony”) will likely be a key aspect of your divorce. In California, long-term (and potentially permanent) spousal support may be awarded to a spouse who lacks the means to financially support himself or herself at the same level as during the marriage after the parties’ divorce, and “temporary” spousal support may be awarded during the divorce process as well. Due to the complexities involved in calculating spousal support – and even determining whether an award of alimony is appropriate at all – it is important to work with an Irvine spousal support attorney who can help you every step of the way.
Our lawyers have decades of experience representing divorcing spouses in Irvine and Orange County. We guide our clients through their divorces step-by-step, helping them make informed decisions throughout the process. We have successfully handled some of Orange County’s – and California’s – highest income divorces, and we are thoroughly knowledgeable about the strategic, financial and practical considerations involved in negotiating favorable spousal support awards.
Calculating Spousal Support During an Irvine Divorce
When determining whether an award of temporary or long-term spousal support (or both) is appropriate, the primary factor is the spouse’s income disparity, if any. Spousal support is intended to allow each spouse to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage to the extent possible; and, if both spouses are leaving their marriage with equal (or roughly equal) earning capacity, then an award of spousal support may be unwarranted.
California’s Spousal Support Factors
If the circumstances of a divorce warrant payment of spousal support, then the amount and duration of payment must be determined based on the list of factors contained in section 4320 of the California Family Code. The first of these factors also focuses on the spouses’ respective earning capacities, and places emphasis on the ability of the spouse who will receive support to become self-supporting in the future:
“The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account . . . [t]he marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; . . . the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment[; and] . . . [t]he extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.”
The additional spousal support factors listed in Section 4320 include:
- The extent to which the recipient contributed to the supporting spouse’s education, training or career development;
- The supporting spouse’s ability to pay, taking into account earning capacity, income from all sources, assets and standard of living;
- The spouses’ respective needs based on their current standard of living;
- The spouses’ respective assets and debts, including “separate” property and their respective shares of their “community” estate;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The recipient’s ability to earn income without “unduly interfering” with his or her post-divorce child-rearing responsibilities;
- The spouses’ respective ages and health conditions;
- Any documented history of domestic violence;
- Tax consequences;
- The “balance of hardships” to each spouse;
- The “goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time,” if feasible; and,
- Any criminal record related to the recipient’s abuse of the supporting spouse or a shared child.
If you have questions or concerns about any of the above-mentioned factors, contact an Orange County spousal support lawyer at our firm as soon as possible.
Determining the Duration of Spousal Support in California
An obligation to pay spousal support will typically end when:
- The death of either party;
- The recipient remarries or enters into a registered domestic partnership; or,
- A specified date agreed to by the parties or designated by the court;
- The court approves a modification to the parties’ existing spousal support award.
Of course, the parties can stipulate that spousal support payments will end earlier. Common approaches to placing a shorter duration on spousal support payments can include:
- Having the payor make a “lump sum payment” in lieu of future spousal support;
- Awarding support until the recipient obtains the necessary education, training, or certification to become self-sufficient (provided that he or she continues to work toward the targeted goal in good faith); or,
- Awarding support until the recipient finds suitable employment (provided that he or she does not intentionally remain unemployed or underemployed rather than actively pursuing viable career opportunities).
In cases in which the spouses are unable to agree to the amount and duration of spousal support, the California courts will generally award support for at least half of the duration of the spouses’ marriage, when the marriage was less than 10 years. In the case of a marriage that lasted 10 years or longer, the courts have the option to award spousal support with no end date. However, even in this scenario, the award of alimony is not necessarily permanent. The supporting spouse can petition for a reduction or termination if there is evidence to suggest that continued payment of the court-ordered amount is no longer justified.
While going to court is an option, it will often be in both spouses’ best interests to negotiate a resolution. Not only does this allow for the structuring of an award that is specifically tailored to the circumstances at hand, but it allows for tax planning and consideration of various other practical issues as well. Divorcing spouses also have the option to blend spousal support and property division negotiations, and this type of integrated approach often provides the greatest opportunity to achieve a mutually-agreeable outcome.
Schedule an Appointment with an Irvine Spousal Support Attorney
If you are contemplating a divorce and would like more information about what you can expect with regard to spousal support, our Irvine spousal support attorney would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation in confidence. To schedule an appointment at our matrimonial law offices in Orange County, please call 949-474-0800 or inquire online today.