When marriages end up in divorce, many questions start to arise. One of the most important questions is to do with spousal support or alimony. Although alimony figures in only about 10 to 15% of divorces, understanding how the law looks at spousal support is important for both spouses.
Is spousal support a default entitlement?
Neither spouse has any automatic entitlement to support. A number of factors may be considered by courts before deciding on whether a spousal support is warranted and the extent of it.
Who pays the support?
Litigations are often fought on the issue of who has to pay and how much when couples fail to reach an understanding on their own. Usually, the higher earning spouse pays the one who earns a lesser income or is not earning at all, such as stay at home moms.
Is the support permanent?
A temporary support is a short term one that is awarded until a final settlement can be made. The Family Court in California has the authority to order one spouse to pay the other, with a pending divorce.
The long-term spousal support is the final or permanent support that is awarded by the court.
A permanent support that lasts a lifetime is only in cases where one of the spouses is disabled or chronically ill and unable to earn. In all other cases, the amount of support awarded is tapered off, so as to encourage efforts of the dependent to become self-supporting. Courts usually consider half of the duration of the marriage as the time required for the supported spouse to become self-supporting.
How is the spousal support calculated?
One of the major factors in deciding spousal support is the gross income of both spouses that includes wages, dividends, royalties, salaries and bonuses. The net disposable income is arrived at after deducting taxes and other expenses.
In California, a computer program Dissomaster uses a formula to arrive at a figure for temporary spousal support. This program cannot be used for permanent or long-term settlements.
In addition, the court will look into various other factors before deciding on the support. These include:
- Marriages that have lasted more than 10 years may have different considerations in terms of spousal support.
- Age and health of children or the child as the case may be. The spousal support may be impacted by who gets the custody of the children, the age of the kids and so on. Younger kids may need the full-time attention of a parent, which in turn impacts his or her employment status.
- The educational qualifications and earning capacity of both spouses and the marketable skills of the spouse that has to be supported.
- Additional training or education required to gain employment and the expenses involved in this.
- Whether certain domestic duties such as bringing up children or caring for older people have impacted the earning capacity of the supported spouse.
- If any contribution was made by the supported spouse to the partner’s education, training or career advancement while married.
- The standards of living during marital life
- Age and health of both spouses
- Domestic violence that has been documented by either spouse. Affairs, on the other hand, is not taken into consideration while deciding spousal support.
When is spousal support terminated?
Spousal support can be terminated or reduced in the following events:
- Death of either of the spouses
- Cohabitation or remarriage of the supported spouse
- Retirement or loss of job of the supporting spouse
- Early retirement or reduction in income of the supporting spouse
- Change in earning capacity or income of the supported spouse