Spousal Support in California – How is it Decided?

The issue of spousal support is frequently one of the most contentious and emotionally-charged aspects of a divorce proceeding. This is why it makes sense to retain the services of a skilled and knowledgeable California spousal support attorney. You do not want to let your emotions, or potential animus towards your spouse, adversely impact the divorce proceedings and potentially delay reaching a resolution that would enable you to move on to the next chapter of your life.

When Courts Decide Spousal Support in California

The issue of spousal support is decided by a judge during a divorce and after a proceeding. It can be litigated during your divorce, legal separation or even during a marriage nullification case.

What is the Average Spousal Support in California?

Each case is unique and different, so the amount of spousal support will depend primarily on the specific facts and circumstances of your divorce case. For example, the amount of spousal support depends largely on the type of support sought. If you are seeking “temporary” spousal support, the court will potentially award an amount differently when compared to someone seeking “permanent” spousal support.

Duration of California Spousal Support Payments

how long do i have to pay spousal support in californiaThe amount of time a spouse may be legally obligated to provide monetary support will depend on an array of factors. First and foremost, the length of the marriage will be a key factor in assessing the amount of time support should be provided. For example, pursuant to Family Code Section 4320(I), if you were married less than 10 years, there is a rebuttable presumption that a spouse will have to provide monetary support for half the total length of marriage. So, if you and your spouse were married for eight years and got divorced, then Section 4320(I) sets forth that support payments would need to be made for a maximum of four years.

In addition to the amount of time you were married to your spouse, the unique facts and circumstances in your case could impact how long spousal support is ordered by a court. For example, if you were married for 12 years and your spouse stayed at home to raise your kids, then there is a good chance that a court would order the working spouse to provide support to the homemaker spouse.

California Spousal Support Laws and Taxes

Spousal support is considered to be taxable income to the recipient in California. Also, the payer of spousal support may be able to deduct those payments from their state taxes. However, spousal support payments are no longer deductible from federal taxes.

Modifying a California Spousal Support Order

When a spousal support order is entered by a court, it does not mean that the order is carved in stone. It is possible to make modifications to a support order, but there must be evidence that a change in circumstances has occurred warranting the requested modification. Common examples include a change in employment status, a change in income, a loss of health insurance, and so forth.

Impact of Remarriage on California Spousal Support

When the recipient of spousal support decides to get remarried, it means spousal support will no longer be payable to that spouse. However, if the parties agreed to continued support payments in their Marital Settlement Agreement, even in the event of remarriage, then payments could continue.

Cohabitation Can Impact Spousal Support

If the recipient of spousal support starts cohabitating with someone (e.g., a new significant other), there is a presumption that their need for financial support should be reduced accordingly. As a result, the payer could file a motion to reduce, limit, or terminate spousal support upon discovering that the payments’ recipient is now living with another individual. It is essential to note that the recipient of the spousal support retains the right to challenge this type of support modification request. For example, if the recipient of the support payments can produce evidence that they do not share any expenses with their new co-habitant and pay for everything separately, then the aforementioned presumption could be rebutted and they could continue receiving support payments.

Other Events That Impact Spousal Support

There are multiple “automatic” triggers that result in the stoppage of spousal support in California. For example, if the payer of support or the recipient of the support passes away, then the spousal support will stop. Also, if a specific date is reached for which the parties agreed that support payments would end, then the payments will cease on that date. The same trigger applies to court-ordered spousal support payments that include a specific sunset date for the payments.

History of Domestic Violence and Its Impact on a Spousal Support Award

If there is a history of domestic violence during a marriage, it can be used as a factor by the court when assessing whether to award permanent spousal support to the abused party. The key is whether the history of domestic violence was documented. Additionally, Family Code Section 4325 states that when someone is convicted of domestic violence against their spouse within the past five years, then there is a rebuttable presumption that the abuser is prohibited from receiving spousal support.

Overview of the “Gavron” Warning and How It Impacts Spousal Support in California

You are probably asking yourself, “What the heck is a Gavron warning?” Well, it is codified in Family Code Section 4330(b) and stands for the proposition that an ex-spouse is not allowed to simply sit back and refuse to make any effort to become a self-sustaining individual once a court enters a spousal support order. Though, it is important to note that Gavron warnings are discretionary and are not issued in every case.

Have Questions About Spousal Support? Contact the Castro Law Offices

If you are going through a divorce, or contemplating getting divorced, and need answers to questions about spousal support, now is the time to contact the Castro Law Offices. Marin County based divorce & spousal support lawyer Jeremy Castro understands the heightened-degree of importance and sensitivity associated with disputes concerning spousal support payments. Put his experience and knowledge to work for you.