Corona Spousal Support Attorney
Spousal support is easily one of the most heated issues in a divorce due to the fact that there usually is a party that has a need for financial support while the other spouse has the financial ability to pay. Understanding spousal support in terms of when it is ordered, how much is ordered, and for how long it is ordered is necessary before filing for divorce.
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support, otherwise known as “alimony,” is the amount of money that one spouse pays to the other spouse during a divorce and post-divorce. There are two types of spousal support – temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support.
Temporary Spousal Support in California
Temporary spousal support, also known as pendente lite spousal support, is ordered during the life of a divorce. Temporary spousal support is not automatically ordered by the court from the outset of a divorce. A party must affirmatively file for a request for temporary spousal support. Typically, the party that needs financial support to make ends meet will be the one who files. The filing party must prove to the court a need for spousal support and the other party’s ability to pay spousal support to which the court will base their decision upon an income comparison between the parties using the adopted spousal support guideline called the “Santa Clara Guideline.”
Once obtaining the necessary financial information from the Income and Expense Declarations provided by both parties, the court will input that information into two county-wide used programs known as “X-spouse” or “DISSOMASTER” to calculate the guideline amount for temporary spousal support. The temporary guideline spousal support amount is typically higher than the permanent spousal support amount post-divorce because the assumption is that a party has an increased need during the pendency of a divorce. As a result, providing accurate financial information on the Income and Expense Declarations is crucial. At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, our attorneys have access to DISSOMASTER which allows us to estimate the amount of temporary spousal support that might be ordered by the court.
The preparation and strategy for acquiring or defending a request for spousal support takes great skill and experience. It is helpful to have the advice of an expert family law attorney in these cases, early on.
Process of Filing for Temporary Spousal Support
For a party that is filing for spousal support, two forms need to be completed and filed with the court, including the Request for Order (FL-300) and an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150). The Request for Order provides the court information and facts as to why there is a need for a temporary spousal support order while the Income and Expense Declaration provides the court with the supporting financial information and documentation in determining temporary spousal support.
Once the paperwork has been filed with the court, a court hearing is set for the parties and attorneys of record, if any, to appear in court. Then, the paperwork would need to be served on the opposing party or attorney of record by mail or personal service. The opposing party’s Responsive Declaration to Request for Order and Income and Expense Declaration would have to be filed with the court at least 9 court days prior to the hearing date and served on the filing party or attorney of record by personal service, or by mail add 5 days.
Once inputting all the financial information into X-spouse/DISSOMASTER, the parties and their attorneys of record can determine whether an agreement can be entered between the parties thereby no longer having a need for the hearing date. Otherwise, the parties and their attorneys of record must appear in court on the hearing date to litigate the temporary spousal support issue in court. In many cases, the simple usage of the program allows parties to enter into an agreement based upon the number that is calculated by the program which keep costs low. Either through an agreement or by court order, the temporary spousal support order would become effective from the date of the filing for the request. As such, filing of a request immediately is crucial. Obviously, the input factors are extremely important and may not be as simple as one party might believe.
Modifying a Temporary Spousal Support Order
Even though a court may make a temporary spousal support order, this does not prevent the parties from seeking a modification of the order. Since there is already a court order made, a party seeking a modification either due to a request for an increase or decrease has the burden to prove that there has been a “change of circumstances.” Although not technically required to modify a temporary order, no judge will modify a temporary order without the showing of a changed circumstance. A change of circumstances is more than just a mere disapproval with the court’s order but a valid argument that there has been a change financially by either party that makes it necessary to change the current temporary spousal support order. This requires the same process above of filing the Request for Order and Income and Expense Declaration but the Request for Order must note a modification is being requested.
For a party paying support (“payor”), he/she may be requesting for a modification because the payor’s income has decreased since the last orders were made or that the receiving party’s (“payee”) need has decreased due to an increase in the payee’s income. For a payee, he/she may be requesting for a modification because the payee’s income has decreased or the payor spouse’s income has increased since the last orders were made. These would be examples of situations where there would be a change of circumstances that would necessitate a new temporary spousal support order to be made.
Permanent Spousal Support
Permanent spousal support is designed and expected to help a party financially who may not have had the economic upper-hand during the marriage. While temporary spousal support is only ordered for the duration of a divorce, permanent spousal support commences at the conclusion of a divorce. The length of permanent spousal support is dependent upon the length of marriage between the spouses.
The length of the marriage is determined from the date of marriage until the date of separation. If the length of the marriage is for less than 10 years, then the marriage is considered as a short-term marriage. Permanent spousal support for short-term marriages lasts for only half the length of the marriage. For example, if the spouses were married for 9 years, permanent spousal support would only last for approximately 4.5 years. On the other hand, marriages of 10 years or more are known as long-term marriages.
For long-term marriages, the courts will continue to have the power over the issue of spousal support between the parties. This does not necessarily mean that one party will have to pay the other spousal support for the rest of their lives as circumstances between the parties could change significantly to the point where the receiving party would no longer have a need for spousal support. The assumption is that the parties made significant sacrifices during a marriage of 10 or more years and so the court retains the right to deal with spousal support between the parties for the foreseeable future without any specific time limitation. If the parties want to modify permanent spousal support, then the courts will allow the parties to litigate in court, and the court will make orders.
Termination of Permanent Spousal Support
Although there is no specific time limitation for permanent spousal support, there are certain events, which if they occur, can terminate permanent spousal support. Under California Family Code Section 4337, if either party dies or the receiving party remarries, the payor’s obligation to pay spousal support terminates. Of course, parties can always agree to terminate spousal support but doing so should be done very cautiously and with legal advice.
Determination of Permanent Spousal Support
Unless the parties in a Corona divorce case agree to permanent spousal support through settlement, permanent spousal support is analyzed under what are known as the 4320 factors from the California Family Code. The courts take each and every factor into consideration in its determination of permanent spousal support. These factors include the following:
- 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 all of the following:
- The 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; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
- The 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 extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
- The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
- The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
- The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
- The duration of marriage
- The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.
- Age and health of the parties
- Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the parties or perpetrated by either party against other party’s child.
- Immediate and specific tax consequences to each party
- The balance of the hardships to each party.
- The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable time.
- The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse in order to make a reduction or elimination of spousal support.
- Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.
For more detailed information on how courts determine income available for child and spousal support, click here.
Use of X-spouse/DISSOMASTER to Estimate Permanent Spousal Support
Although the court makes the ultimate decision as to the amount and length of permanent spousal support in the case the parties cannot come to an agreement, there is a way to approximate how much a receiving party might be entitled to. Just as the programs X-spouse/DISSOMASTER are used to calculate temporary spousal, there is an option known as the “B-key” which attorneys and the court can use to toggle “on” and “off” to switch between temporary spousal and permanent spousal support. As stated previously, the resulting “B-key” permanent spousal support amount is typically lower than the temporary spousal support amount. The courts can use this number as a “baseline” from which they can vary the final amount based upon the court’s analysis of the 4320 factors as shown above.
It must be noted that technically, family courts are not permitted to consider computer programs when determining permanent spousal support. Judges must consider all of the factors listed above under Fam. Code 4320. However, the courts often use these programs to determine tax issues and to get a rough idea of what spousal support might be on a temporary basis.
Is a New Spouse’s Income Considered in Spousal Support? If so, how?
If the payor spouse becomes re-married, the new spouse’s income is not included into the determination of future spousal support. The only incomes that are considered for the purposes of spousal support are those that were involved with the marital community which were those of the two parties.
Does Cohabitation Affect Spousal Support?
Cohabitation is a factor that the family court must consider when determining the issue of spousal support. There is a presumptive reduction in need when a recipient of spousal support resides with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
If you have any further questions regarding spousal support or require representation, please do not hesitate to contact Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP for a free consultation today. Our attorneys are ready and willing to help you with your spousal support issue and any other family law matters.