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Los Gatos, CA family law attorney for spousal supportFollowing divorce, one spouse may be entitled to receive financial support from their former partner that will help them maintain their standard of living. When a spousal support agreement is established either during mediation or a court hearing, the spouse receiving payments should be able to rest assured that they will receive this court-ordered support. Spousal support payments can be critically important in ensuring that a person is able to live a financially healthy and independent life following divorce. However, there are some cases in which a paying spouse does not meet their obligations to make these payments on time or in full. It is paramount that you speak with a qualified family law attorney if you are not receiving the agreed-upon payments from your former spouse. 

Securing Your Spousal Support Payments 

Under California law, an automatic wage assignment is created when a spousal support order is established. This will ensure that the amount of support is deducted from the paying spouse’s income (known as wage garnishment). However, divorcing spouses may choose to have the automatic wage assignment stayed, and they may make other arrangements for paying spousal support. 

If a wage assignment has been stayed in your case, there are a number of reasons why your former spouse may fail to make spousal support payments. However, even if he or she has experienced financial difficulties due to loss of employment or a medical condition that has affected his or her ability to work, you still have the right to look into options for enforcing the payment of support. Typically, the first step you and your attorney should take is identifying why the payments are not being made. If your ex-spouse is in fact unable to work, you may be able to work together with him or her to reach an agreement that temporarily lowers the amount of payments or suspends the support for a certain period of time. In these cases, you should be sure that your ex-spouse is aware of your willingness to take the matter to court if the full amount of support payments is not resumed at the conclusion of the suspension. 

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Los Gatos spousal support and alimony attorneyAlimony, spousal support, partner support…whatever you call it, it can be a complicated process to determine whether you or your ex-spouse qualify to receive financial support during your divorce case. It is important to discuss your options with an attorney to determine eligibility for alimony, the amount of payments, and the length of time that the support will continue. Whether you are the payor or the payee, you will want to make sure that you are the decisions made will meet your needs and protect your financial security. 

How Is Spousal Support Determined?

Eligibility for spousal support, or partner support in the case of domestic partnership, must be determined in court. A support order can be established through a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, or as part of a domestic violence restraining order. Temporary support may also be granted by a court during litigation, with the final decisions regarding support being finalized in the divorce or legal separation agreement. 

The actual amount of the support payments will vary depending on many factors, such as how long the couple was married or in a domestic partnership, the standard of living, both parties’ incomes and potential incomes based on their education and experience, the children involved and care needed for them, debts, property, and much more. The presence of domestic violence may also be a determining factor. 

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Los Gatos, CA divorce alimony attorneyOne of the trickiest issues to negotiate in a divorce can be the matter of spousal support, or alimony. When a couple has enjoyed a comfortable standard of living for many years, with one party being the primary income provider and the other taking primary responsibility for home and family needs, the issue of spousal support can be as important as the division of assets and retirement savings.  

When a couple is unable to reach agreement on the question of spousal support payments, and the couple does not have a premarital or postmarital agreement that addresses the subject, then a judge must decide whether to order spousal support and, if so, in what amount. This is a very complex decision, requiring the court to study not only the couple’s assets and debts but also their lifestyle, occupational skills, income-earning capacity, childcare needs, and more. 

Note that this article will discuss only “permanent” spousal support,” that is, payments that will be made by one party to the other after a marital settlement agreement has been finalized. This is separate from the “temporary” spousal support that may be required while a divorce is pending. 

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Los Gatos spousal support lawyerWhen a couple gets divorced, the higher-earning spouse may be required to pay spousal support to a non-working or lower-paid spouse for some period of time after the divorce. This is called “permanent” spousal support, as opposed to the “temporary” spousal support that may be paid while a divorce is pending. 

However, do not let the term “permanent” confuse you. So-called “permanent” spousal support will not necessarily be for the rest of your life. Its duration will depend on several factors, including the length of the marriage and the ability of the supported party to become self-supporting. In fact, Section 4320 of the California Family Code states that a supported spouse is expected to become self-supporting “within a reasonable period of time.” 

Length of Marriage Affects Duration of California Spousal Support 

The duration of the marriage is a major factor in determining the duration of spousal support. If a couple has been married for less than 10 years, a “reasonable period of time” is generally defined as one-half the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for six years, the court would typically award spousal support for no longer than three years. However, the court has total discretion to order support for a longer or shorter period of time based on the totality of the couple’s circumstances.

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Santa Clara County permanent alimony attorneyWhen a couple decides to divorce, one issue that can be difficult to negotiate is the payment of spousal support, also known as alimony. You might think that a high-earning spouse will automatically have to pay monthly support to a spouse who has not been earning a paycheck or whose earnings have been substantially lower. However, California law on this issue is fairly complex. 

While child support payments are determined by state-mandated guidelines, and there is a basic formula used to compute “temporary” spousal support payments that may be required while a divorce is pending. However, there is no simple formula for post-divorce, “permanent” spousal support payments. (“Permanent” is in quotes because the duration of support payments will be defined in the final settlement agreement. The agreement could, for example, require payments for the supported party’s lifetime, until their remarriage, or only for a specific number of years.)

Generally speaking, the objective of temporary support is to enable each party to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. However, Sections 4320-4339 of the California Family Code provide a long list of factors that the court must consider when deciding whether to order permanent spousal support, in what amount, and for what length of time.

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