After a couple chooses to pursue a divorce or legal separation, they face a multitude of challenging issues. The ability to navigate each with skill ensures a beneficial outcome for all parties involved. While marital property division, child custody, and child comprise the most well-known issues facing couples as they undergo the divorce process, one of the most significant financial obligations that may be involved in this process is spousal support.
Also termed spousal maintenance or alimony, spousal support consists of the collection of funds or assets that one spouse transfers to the other after a divorce. The goal of spousal support is to provide the dependent spouse the financial resources necessary to continue the standard of living experienced throughout the course of the marriage. However, the question remains—how much spousal support is fair?
Consider the information below to learn more about spousal support, then contact the experienced Pasadena spousal support lawyers at Khalaf Law Group to discuss your legal options for negotiating an acceptable agreement during this challenging time.
Spousal Support Explained
Within the US, spousal support laws exist to protect individuals going through a divorce or separation by ensuring they do not suffer a decline in their livelihood or standard of living. Often, couples earn significantly different amounts of money and therefore offer different forms of contribution to the household. In many cases, a divorce has the potential to severely reduce the standard of living experienced by one spouse without affecting the other in a comparable way. Spousal support law recognizes this disparity and attempts to alleviate it.
A spouse’s absence from the workforce over an extended period of time can result in insufficient education, skills, or training to quickly obtain work after the divorce. Due to the loss of income and lack of skills associated with the divorce, a spouse may be unable to fully meet their needs and continue the same standard of living they experienced during the marriage.
Frequently, the above circumstances occur in couples where one spouse focused most of their time and attention on homemaking and childrearing. At the same time, the other earned a regular income from a full-time professional position. In these cases, the financially dependent spouse may request a judge to order that the other spouse compensate them with a percentage of this lost income. Spousal support exists to help spouses maintain their standard of living until they become self-supporting.
Types of Spousal Support
A judge may issue temporary, rehabilitative, or permanent spousal support, depending on the circumstances of the relationship.
- Temporary spousal support. This form of spousal support applies to situations where one spouse suffers considerable financial distress because of the divorce. Temporary spousal support provides monetary assistance over a predetermined period until financial recovery occurs. The right to receive temporary support begins as soon as one spouse initiates separation and usually lasts until the divorce is final.
- Rehabilitative spousal support. Rehabilitative spousal support occurs in cases where a spouse requires education or professional training to enter the job market after the divorce. This form of spousal support continues until the recipient finds sufficient employment, rather than ending on a specific termination date.
- Permanent spousal support. This type of support occurs when the dependent spouse is unlikely to secure employment due to illness, disability, or advanced age. In most cases, these circumstances mean the individual will require support for an indefinite period. Such support is only available when a couple’s marriage lasted for over ten years. As a result, one spouse provides ongoing payments to the other until either the recipient remarries or the contributing party dies.
Factors Judges Consider in Determining Spousal Support
When determining the type, extent, duration, and terms of a spousal support agreement, the judge will adhere to the factors listed in California Family Code section 4320. The most significant factors that predict spousal support include earning capacity, standard of living, duration of the marriage, and whether the relationship involves a history of domestic violence. Read on for a detailed list of the factors a judge will consider when calculating a support settlement:
- The extent to which each spouse’s earning capacity may allow them to maintain the previous standard of living, including components like:
- Marketable skills held by the dependent spouse
- Current job market for these skills
- Expenses and time needed for the supported spouse to obtain the required education or vocational training to further develop these skills
- Need for education or vocational training to acquire new skills that would be more marketable
- Degree of impairment in the supported spouse’s earning capacity due to prolonged periods of unemployment
- The needs of each spouse, determined by standard of living, which was established during the marriage
- The payer’s determined ability to provide support, which involves assessing income, current earning capacity, current standard of living, and available assets
- The extent to which the supported spouse’s sacrifices (such as not completing a degree or quitting a job) allowed the supporting party to attain an educational degree, career training, professional licensing, or a career
- The supported spouse’s ability to obtain gainful employment without negatively impacting the interests of any dependent children for which they have custody
- The goal of the supported spouse to become self-supporting within a period considered by the court to be reasonable, equaling half the length of the marriage if it lasted for less than ten years
- The overall duration of the partnership or marriage
- The age, physical health, and emotional wellbeing of both parties
- The assets, property, and obligations of each spouse
- The potential tax consequences faced because of spousal support
- The financial hardships affecting each
- The existence of documented evidence that either party perpetrated domestic violence or any other form of violence against the other, along with emotional distress suffered because of this violence
- The presence of a criminal record with domestic violence convictions
- Any other considerations the court concludes as equitable
What Is a Fair Amount of Spousal Support?
There is no standardized formula to calculate the exact amount of spousal support you can expect to pay or receive as the result of a divorce or separation. A judge must carefully consider and weigh the factors listed above to develop a spousal support settlement that serves the unique needs of each couple. In addition, this amount is subject to change over time due to changing circumstances.
In California, many counties employ a guideline to create a rough estimate for temporary spousal support. The support provided may not exceed approximately 40% of the supporting party’s monthly net income, reduced by half of the monthly net income earned by the supported spouse. Pasadena spousal support lawyers may refer to this guideline during your initial consultation.
The goal of the support agreement is to provide them with sufficient resources needed to maintain their standard of living without causing an undue burden on the supporting party that would seriously reduce their standard of living. The only way to determine a fair spousal support amount based on the circumstances of your divorce is by contacting a Pasadena spousal support lawyer. At Khalaf Law, we possess extensive knowledge of the criteria utilized by the court to calculate spousal support and can help you understand spousal support law. Moving forward, we can assist with managing negotiations with your former spouse to reach an acceptable outcome.
Developing a Spousal Support Agreement on Your Terms
If you would prefer to avoid settling this matter in court and believe you are able to communicate amicably, we can help. You can draft a spousal support agreement or “stipulation” by working with an experienced Pasadena spousal support lawyer. This attorney will help you understand your rights and how the spousal support system works to ensure you are fully informed before agreeing to any specific terms. You and your former spouse must agree on which party will receive spousal support, the amount of support, the duration of these payments, and how to transfer the funds.
After drafting your comprehensive spousal support agreement, you must submit it to the court for a judge to complete an evaluation and approve the terms it contains. This agreement is not a court order until the judge approves and signs it. In addition, you may change the terms of the agreement over time. However, this requires demonstrating a change in circumstances, meaning a significant change has occurred after the creation of the initial agreement. For example, the supported spouse may no longer need this assistance, or the supporting spouse may have experienced a drastic income reduction and needs to renegotiate the monthly support amount.
Khalaf Law Can Help You Coordinate a Spousal Support Arrangement
If you are going through a divorce or separation, you require the services of an experienced attorney to ensure the best possible outcome. For over a decade, the team of Pasadena spousal support lawyers at Khalaf Law has provided clients with quality legal representation. Offering compassion, dedication, and unparalleled attention to detail, our team works closely with our clients to investigate every element of your unique case.