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Am I Entitled to Spousal Support?

Sept. 6, 2013

With today's high divorce rate, the issue of spousal support is very significant. Many marriages today are of a shorter duration, lasting anywhere from 1-6 years before they decide to go their separate ways. In Southern California this is especially true with all the Hollywood celebrity marriages that occur. One of the first questions that clients ask us here at the firm is, "Am I entitled to spousal support?" The answer is …it depends. Not everyone is eligible for spousal support in the event of the divorce. There are many influencing factors that the court will take into consideration when making this decision.

The truth is, with short marriages, the court is not as likely to award spousal support to anyone, but they do make exceptions. The two main things that the court will look for are:

  1. The Length of the Marriage

  2. The Earning Capacity of Both Parties

In the state of California, a "long duration" marriage is considered to be 10 years or longer. If your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, then that will be a huge determination as to the duration of the spousal support award that you will receive. Any marriage that lasted less than 10 years is considered to be a "short duration" marriage. With shorter marriages, the court will typically award you support to last half the length of the marriage. So for example, if you and your spouse were married for eight years, then your spousal support award would last only four years.

Second, the court will look to see how much income each party makes. When determining alimony in California, the courts have a formula that they use to calculate the award amount. The formula for spousal support is used only in the initial stages of the divorce process.

40% of the higher income – 50% of the lower income = alimony award

There are some instances where the court may deviate from this formula and use their discretion. For example, one the divorce is finalized, the court will reconsider the spousal support order keeping in mind the California Family Code Section 4320. In this section of family law, it talks about the many factors that the court can use to determine support. The determining factors include:

  • The education level of each party

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The mental and physical health of each party

  • The age of each party

  • The history of unemployment

  • The earning capacity of each party

  • The standard of living that was established during the marriage

Things to Remember

There are several things to keep in mind. First off, you can modify your amount of spousal support unless the amount agreed upon in the divorce settlement is a set amount. The court will be sensitive if the supporting party suffers a decrease in pay or loses their job. In that were to happen, the court may modify the amount of support to reflect your current financial situation. Second, you have to remember that in most cases spousal support payments end if the supported spouse gets remarried or dies. Thirdly, you must note that spousal support orders are separate from child support orders. If you are getting a divorce and children are involved, then you could be ordered to pay both.

If you are considering filing for divorce, then you should speak with a Pasadena divorce lawyer to find out if you are eligible for spousal support. Contact the Law Office of Fritzie Galliani, APC today and we will gladly review your case. Call us now at (626) 314-6738.