Is alimony (spousal support) still relevant?

In an interesting an enlightening new article on alimony, the author indicates that spousal support (alimony) should be based more on a case-by-case basis rather than an automatic award as it is in California.  She states that if both parties can support themselves, then there should be no spousal support. In the case of one spouse needing time to get into or back into a career (such as when one has been raising children), then spousal support is appropriate to help the supported spouse get into a career.

This sounds very fair, but I have two problems with it: First, it is hard to create a law around this proposal.  In California, spousal support generally lasts for half the length of the marriage and is intended to even out, as much as possible, the finances of the two parties. Second, in our economic environment, it is hard to make ends meet.  In a divorce, when the couple splits, generally one spouse moves out and in an instant the same amount of money – whether it’s one or two incomes – is supporting two households.  Two rents/mortgages, two sets of utilities, not to mention the initial financial requirement of getting into a home, buying furniture, dishes, etc.  When one spouse makes a great deal more than the other, or even a little bit more, it can be impossible, simply looking at the numbers, for the lower-earning spouse to make it.

I found it interesting that, in the article, the older individuals in the crowd were more in favor of spousal support than the younger.  I would agree that, in younger couples, there is less of a likelihood that one spouse is not working and stays home exclusively.  Many couples now share the parenting responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities. It does seem unfair for one spouse to have to pay on an ongoing basis for the support of the spouse they are divorcing.  I know this because I have represented dozens and dozens of men and women who have had to pay spousal support.  There is almost always some kind of negative feeling attached to it. But until we have a way to better equalize the earning of couples, I think spousal support will remain.

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Secrets of child and spousal support (alimony) in California divorce

One of the hot button issues in divorce is child and spousal support. It’s a hot button because it involves money, and money is a leading cause of divorce. Many couples are already tense about money, and when you add in the support issue, things can blow up. The problem is one of simple math:

With a married couple, you generally have one household surviving on the income of two parties. You take that household and divide it in two when the couple separates, and you have the same amount of money (not enough) now supporting two households instead of one. Ouch.

Regardless of who moves out and who is the spouse paying for child and/or spousal support, it hurts both parties. The one paying can see in his or her paycheck that the amount being brought home is, in some cases, actually smaller than the amount being paid for support. The one being paid just looks at the money coming in and the bills to be paid, and can’t quite see how to resolve the disparity.

Arguments, often heated ones, ensue. The key is to recognize that not only is this going to happen, but to catch it early and address it. It isn’t going to be easy for either of the spouses, and they had better be prepared. Both spouses, in most cases, are working hard to maintain their lives while they go through the difficult time, and a small amount of understanding goes a long way.

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Emotions of child and spousal support – for recipient and payor

One of the hot button issues in divorce is child and spousal support. It’s a hot button because it involves money, and money is the leading cause of divorce. Many couples are already tense about money, and when you add in the support issue, things can blow up. The problem is one of simple math:

You have one household surviving on the income of two parties. You take that household and divide it in two when the couple separates, and you have the same amount of money (not enough) now supporting two households instead of one. Ouch.

Regardless of who moves out and who is the spouse paying for child and/or spousal support, it hurts both parties. The one paying can see in his or her paycheck that the amount being brought home is, in some cases, actually smaller than the amount being paid for support. The one being paid just looks at the money coming in and the bills to be paid, and can’t quite see how to resolve the disparity.

Arguments, often heated ones, ensue. The key is to recognize that not only is this going to happen, but to catch it early and address it. It isn’t going to be easy for either of the spouses, and they had better be prepared. Both spouses, in most cases, are working hard to maintain their lives while they go through the difficult time, and a small amount of understanding goes a long way.

Child and spousal support in California divorce

A common issue of serious contention in a divorce or other family law case is support. This is because money is a sensitive and difficult subject in these cases. Often you are dealing with the breakup of a household. Suddenly, the same money that used to support one household now has to support two. It’s tough, and leads to many emotional issues.

Child and spousal support are treated differently, but also the same. Let me explain…

Let’s start with the differences. First, spousal support is not available in a paternity, or UPA, case, but only in a divorce. Second, the judge has discretion to deny a request for spousal support, but cannot deny someone child support. Third, child support is always on the table as an issue, whereas spousal support must be specifically requested in the Petition to be considered.

Spousal support is used to keep each spouse in the same financial position that they were in during marriage. Generally it lasts approximately half the length of the marriage, except in long-term marriages, where it lasts indefinitely (which does not mean forever, but rather it lasts until an indetermined time in the future where it isn’t required anymore). The one receiving support has the legal obligation to become self-supporting as quickly as possible, considering that person’s ability to earn. It is commonly believed that a ten-year marriage is considered long-term, but I saw that the courts did not look at a marriage less than about 18-20 years as being long-term. Other counties may vary.

I already talked about how long child support lasts, so I won’t repeat myself. Child support is used for the health, maintenance and welfare of your child. Given that, it does not mean that you, as a payor of child support, can take your co-parent to court because you do not believe that your child support is being used properly. In California, we trust the parent to spend the child support appropriately, so the court won’t even consider an allegation that someone is squandering child support. At the same time, each parent has the legal responsibility to work to support your child financially. The court may order a parent to work who is not working or not working up to his or her potential.

In the beginning stages of a case, child and spousal support are calculated similarly, using the support calculator (which you can find here: support calculator). Spousal support on a long-term basis is calculated by a judge using a number of factors, including the need of the payee and the ability to pay of the payor.

California divorce terminology

I am often asked about the terms I use. Here’s a couple:

The term “Family Law” encompasses all kinds of cases, such as divorce, child custody and support, paternity cases, adoptions, domestic partnerships, guardianships, child support cases with the Department of Child Support Services, and modifications to existing orders.

The term “dissolution” is a fancy way of saying divorce. At some point, California decided that the word “divorce” was insufficient and that, for a divorce case, we would call it a “dissolution of marriage.”

“Spousal support” is also called alimony or “separate maintenance.”  While other states do, California does not distinguish between alimony and spousal support.  In California divorce, the term spousal support is the correct one.

Is alimony (spousal support) still relevant?

In an interesting an enlightening new article on alimony, the author indicates that spousal support (alimony) should be based more on a case-by-case basis rather than an automatic award as it is in California.  She states that if both parties can support themselves, then there should be no spousal support. In the case of one spouse needing time to get into or back into a career (such as when one has been raising children), then spousal support is appropriate to help the supported spouse get into a career.

This sounds very fair, but I have two problems with it: First, it is hard to create a law around this proposal.  In California, spousal support generally lasts for half the length of the marriage and is intended to even out, as much as possible, the finances of the two parties. Second, in our economic environment, it is hard to make ends meet.  In a divorce, when the couple splits, generally one spouse moves out and in an instant the same amount of money – whether it’s one or two incomes – is supporting two households.  Two rents/mortgages, two sets of utilities, not to mention the initial financial requirement of getting into a home, buying furniture, dishes, etc.  When one spouse makes a great deal more than the other, or even a little bit more, it can be impossible, simply looking at the numbers, for the lower-earning spouse to make it.

I found it interesting that, in the article, the older individuals in the crowd were more in favor of spousal support than the younger.  I would agree that, in younger couples, there is less of a likelihood that one spouse is not working and stays home exclusively.  Many couples now share the parenting responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities. It does seem unfair for one spouse to have to pay on an ongoing basis for the support of the spouse they are divorcing.  I know this because I have represented dozens and dozens of men and women who have had to pay spousal support.  There is almost always some kind of negative feeling attached to it. But until we have a way to better equalize the earning of couples, I think spousal support will remain.

Getting a divorce? Tax tips

I don’t often write about taxes, but today seems to be tax day, with my last post about the dependency exemption in child support.  It is a common question from my divorcing clients regarding the timing for divorce filing on taxes, and how to file taxes when in the process of divorce.  In addition, many of my clients are interested to know that child support is neither deductible the the payor nor included as income for the recipient.  Unlike spousal support (alimony), which is both deductible and included as income.  Here is an article I read recently that tackles these tax questions and more in a very readable format.

Child and spousal support (alimony) in California divorce

Nearly every divorce involves some kind of support, whether it is for the child(ren) or for one of the spouses.  In addition, finances are often one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce in California.  Here is an overview of this potentially contentious issue:

What a Family Law Coach can do for you & why it can be better than traditional representation

Family Law Coaching is a concept that I created to fill in what I perceived as a wide gap between expensive lawyer representation and the low-cost divorce services available in California.  Sometimes you need an attorney to represent you in all aspects of your case, but not always.  Sometimes you just need a little help in certain areas.  This is where Family Law Coaching can be ideal.