Orange County Spousal Support Attorneys

The attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner specialize in representing Orange County clients involving issues of spousal support and alimony.

The terms spousal support and alimony are synonymous in California. There are two types of spousal support in any Orange County divorce case: temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support.

Temporary Spousal Support:

Temporary spousal support can be paid by the higher earning spouse to the lower earning spouse during the pendency of the divorce action. This means that a spouse could receive spousal support from the date of the initial filing of the divorce through the end of the divorce judgment. Permanent spousal support is spousal support that is paid after the entry of a judgment of dissolution.

Temporary spousal support is governed by Family Code §3600. Temporary spousal support is paid in any amount necessary for the support of the other spouse and is generally set in an amount to maintain the status quo. When setting temporary spousal support, the Family Court considers the supported spouse’s financial needs (i.e. expenses) as well as the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. The court will also consider each party’s income, the financial circumstances of the marriage, as well as the net disposable income after spousal support is paid when using a calculator such as X-spouse or Dissomaster.

Permanent Spousal Support:

Permanent spousal support is set based on the court’s consideration of all of the factors contained within Family Code §4320. These factors include but are not limited to: the marital standard of living, each party’s income or earning capacity, whether there was any interference with either spouse’s employment during marriage while caring for children, sacrifices made by the supported spouse to further or enhance the supporting spouse’s career or education, the supporting spouse’s ability to pay, the supported spouse’s needs, the marital estate’s assets and debts, the length of the marriage, any particular needs of children of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, whether there was any documented history of domestic violence, tax implications of a spousal support order and the court balancing any applicable hardships. Although these factors may not all apply to any particular case, the court will consider them all when setting permanent spousal support.

When setting permanent spousal support, the court will also consider whether the length of the marriage and will classify the marriage as either: a short-term marriage or a long-term marriage.

How Long Is Spousal Support Paid For:

Family Code § 4320 provides that if a marriage is less than 10 years from the date of marriage to the date of separation, then the court’s ability to award spousal support is limited to one-half the length of the marriage.

Family Code § 4336 provides that if a marriage is 10 years or longer from the date of marriage to the date of separation, then the marriage is a long-term marriage. If the Court finds a marriage is a long-term, then the Court will reserve the ability (i.e. reserve jurisdiction) to award spousal support payable by one party to another for an indefinite period of time.

Once a permanent spousal support order is made, it will be modified only upon a change of circumstances taking place. In Re Marriage of Stephenson. Once a change of circumstances occurs, the Court will again analyze the Family Code §4320 factors when modifying support.

Is Spousal Support Taxed:

Regardless of whether spousal support is paid pursuant to a temporary order or a permanent order, spousal support is taxable to the supported spouse and tax deductible to the supporting spouse.

Can A Vocational Evaluation Be Ordered To Determine Spousal Support:

If one, or both, spouses is not working at the time of the divorce, or is not working to their full capacity, the court may order a vocational evaluation be conducted with the report being reviewed by the judge hearing the case (Family Code § 4331).

Can A Spouse Cohabit With Another Person & Still Receive Spousal Support:

In the event one spouse is cohabiting with another person and their relationship is romantic (i.e. not a roommate-type situation), then there is a rebuttable presumption that the supported spouses need for spousal support is decreased (Family Code §4323).

Case Law Applicable To Spousal Support Orders:

There are numerous cases that have interpreted the above statutes concerning temporary and permanent spousal support. A brief summary of certain applicable cases is as follows:

  • Richmond Order: A spousal support order that contains a step-down in the amount with a specific termination date of the support order.
  • Marriage of Reynolds: Once a spouse turns 65, the Court does not have the ability to order that spouse to work in order to pay spousal support.
  • Smith/Ostler: Bonus income is paid on a percentage basis when considered for purposes of spousal support.
  • Marriage of Vomacka: The Court has jurisdiction to extend the length of time spousal support is to be paid.

Gavron Warning: The Court may issue, at any time, an order that the support spouse make reasonable efforts to become self supporting. This may either mean the support spouse must begin educating themselves or working in an effort to become self-supporting in the future.

At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, our attorneys specialize in spousal support cases.  After carefully considering the facts and applicable law, we will inform you of your options related to the issue of spousal support.  This area of law is highly complex and you should always consult with an attorney about any issues related to spousal support in your case.  For a free case evaluation, contact our Orange County spousal support lawyers today.