Alimony, which is also referred to as “spousal support” in California, is payment from one spouse (“payor spouse”) to another (“supported spouse” or “payee spouse”) after they separate with plans to divorce. A written agreement or order that requires the payor spouse to make payments to support the other spouse should be filed with the court before any payments are made, so there can be no dispute that the money changing hands is alimony.
In California, spouses can request temporary alimony, permanent alimony, or both.
Spousal support in Los Angeles is often awarded at an Order to Show Cause on a temporary basis, where one spouse is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other spouse. The Superior Courts of Orange and Los Angeles Counties have adopted a spousal support guideline for use in setting temporary spousal support. This guideline requires that the husband’s spousal support is 40% of his net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the wife’s net monthly income.
Where child support is being paid, the guideline level of child support is first calculated. Then, spousal support is determined.
At the Order to Show Cause hearing, the judge is not concerned about the employability of the wife. Instead, at this stage, the judge merely wants to preserve the status quo and provide the wife with sufficient income for her basic needs, consistent with the parties’ lifestyle.
At the trial of the dissolution, the California Family Code provides the judge with a long list of factors that are to be considered in determining the amount and duration of spousal support.
This list includes such factors as the length of the marriage, the parties’ prior living standard, the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the:
In general, where the marriage has lasted more than 10 years, the court will, at the very least reserve jurisdiction. This means that, even if there is no current order for spousal support, the spouse will be permitted to come back to court at a later date to request spousal support should the need arise.
The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as ordinary income. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a negotiated settlement to include the payment of a high amount of spousal support, because such a payment results in a tax benefit to the husband.