Alimony, also known as spousal support, is on-going financial support by one former spouse to the other, for a defined period of time, either following separation or divorce.
If you plan to pay your soon-to-be-former spouse alimony, or your partner has told you they will pay you alimony, you should speak to an attorney immediately. It is important that a written support agreement is put in place before any money changes hands, so that there can be no dispute later over what was agreed upon, or how much has been paid.
Temporary alimony is meant to be a sort of band-aid of financial support for the lower-earning spouse during the divorce process, and can be especially important for spouses who were underemployed or voluntary unemployed to be stay-at-home parents or homemakers, or to assist their spouses in climbing the corporate ladder during the marriage. Often however, that lower-earning spouse needs financial support that extends beyond the term of the divorce proceeding.
Permanent alimony, which is also called long-term support, is paid by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse after the divorce process is over. Permanent alimony may be granted in order to help the lower-earning spouse achieve the same standard of living they enjoyed while married.
What do courts consider when looking at requests for permanent alimony?
While two people can agree on a permanent spousal alimony order, this is pretty rare. Generally, the judge in your divorce proceeding will determine what level of permanent support, if any, the lower-earning spouse is entitled to. Courts will take into account a number of different factors when determining an order of support, including: the extent to which the lower-earning/support spouse contributed to the higher-earning spouse’s earning capacity, education or professional licensing, both spouses debt obligations (including any separate property owned by each spouse), the length of the marriage, the lower-earning or supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home (and they will take into consideration the interests of any dependent children in the supported spouse’s custody), and the age and health of each spouse.
Does permanent alimony last forever?
No (well, extremely rarely). “Permanent” is a misleading term, as there are some general guidelines and calculations that the court will use when determining the level and timeframe for spousal support. In shorter-term marriages (under 10 years), alimony is generally not ordered for more than half of the length of the marriage (so, about a maximum of 5 years of support, post-marriage). For long-term marriage (over 10 years in length) judges have wide discretion in the amount and length of support that can be ordered, and will take into consideration many factors before determining a final award for alimony, which is why it is extremely important to have a skilled and experienced divorce attorney at your side during your divorce proceeding. The Law office of Anne Dowden Saxton is staffed with knowledgeable, experienced and compassionate professionals – call us today for a free case evaluation, and to answer any questions you have about spousal support, or alimony, in the State of California.