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.