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Los Gatos, CA spousal support attorneyGoing through a divorce can be a stressful process, especially if you are unsure about your financial future after your marriage has ended. If you have been reliant on your spouse’s income during your marriage, or if you have been out of the workforce for a significant amount of time, you may be uncertain about your ability to provide for yourself after your marriage has ended. Fortunately, you may be able to receive spousal support that will allow you to maintain financial stability. 

Spousal Support in California 

When a couple gets a divorce, one spouse may be required to pay the other spouse an amount of financial support each month. These payments are known as spousal support or alimony. Spousal support can be ordered by the court in a litigated case, or spouses may use negotiation or mediation to agree on an amount that will be paid.

In the state of California, there are a number of factors taken into consideration when determining whether spousal support should be awarded. These factors are specified in California Family Code Section 4320. Most notably, the court will consider the length of the marriage, the standard of living each spouse became accustomed to during the marriage, and the age and general health of both spouses. Other considerations include whether employment would hinder a custodial parent from raising their children and whether a spouse did not work during the marriage because they were fulfilling child care duties or other family responsibilities. Any history of domestic violence during the marriage may also affect decisions about spousal support. 

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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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Santa Clara County alimony attorney tax lawsThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a major topic of discussion over the past year, and many people have been affected, whether positively or negatively, by the changes implemented in this law. Those who are in the midst of a divorce case or completed their divorce in the past year will need to understand whether they must file their taxes differently than in the past. In addition, alimony tax laws have been altered drastically, and this has resulted in increased conflict in many cases.

Spousal Support/Alimony Taxes

New laws have changed the way both payors and payees of spousal support claim these payments on their taxes. Those who pay alimony will no longer be able to deduct the spousal support from their taxable income, and those receiving it will no longer have to claim it as taxable income unless the parties otherwise agree. This may not have a large impact on some spouses, but for those in high-asset divorce situations, the money gained or lost could be significant, to say the least.

According to CNBC, the “divorce subsidy” that was previously available was responsible for saving some of California’s top earners as much as 50 percent in taxes. Those savings were enough of an incentive for many people to agree to more spousal support and settle their divorces out of court. Without this incentive, high-asset divorces may be more complicated and drawn out, and the payors of spousal support will be more likely to try to work out deals that will benefit themselves rather than their soon-to-be-exes.

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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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