Determining Factors: Spousal Support Payments

iStock_000001334173_SmallSpousal support refers to when one spouse transfers money or assets to another spouse after divorce. It may also be referred to as “alimony” or “maintenance.”The function of spousal support is to prevent a spouse from experiencing a decrease in standard of living after a divorce.

Sometimes, one of the spouses has been out of the workforce for a significant time, for instance if they had acted as a full time homemaker during marriage, and it would be very difficult for that spouse to find a job that would support the standard of living they had become accustomed to.

Though that spouse will be expected to find work eventually, the court may award them spousal support so they have a grace period before they are expected to be back in the workforce.

The length of a time a spouse is expected to pay another spouse alimony varies depending on the circumstances.

If it is determined that you will have to pay spousal support, you will not have to pay it forever. There are two types of spousal support, “temporary maintenance” and “permanent maintenance.”

Temporary spousal support is usually awarded because one spouse is making a significant amount less than the other spouse. The length of the time support is paid is often related to a transition period from married life to single life.

So for instance, if one spouse initiates a divorce and leaves the marital home, the spouse that remains in the home may be awarded temporary support to maintain costs related to the home, such as bills. Or, temporary support is awarded as “rehabilitative support.”

If one spouse has been out of work and had been supported by the other spouse, they may not be able to enter the workforce right away. They may need to go back to school to get proper training before they can work; in this case, they would be awarded rehabilitative support, which is still temporary.

Usually the duration of support is determined following these guidelines: for marriages that lasted less than 10 years, the duration of support will be one half of that time.

For marriages that lasted longer than 10 years, alimony will be paid for as long as the lesser earning spouse needs it, as long as the other spouse is able to pay it. Spousal support is almost always temporary, but permanent alimony does still exist.

However, it usually exclusively exists on situations where both parties negotiate and agree to permanent alimony. The court is unlikely to award permanent alimony if the spouses do not ask for it.

In California, the courts have adopted the “Santa Clara Guideline,” which is a formula that helps determine temporary spousal support.

Still, determining spousal support takes into account a variety of factors, and it is in your best interest to consult with your family law attorney if you have questions about your specific situation. Get in contact today, ensure you have a clear understanding of how the entire process works and how it will affect you.