How is alimony calculated in California?

People going through divorce need to know their rights and obligations regarding spousal support. Spousal support is gender-neutral, and you may either be on the receiving end or be required to pay alimony to your former spouse during or after the divorce. What exactly is alimony, and how much will you have to pay or be eligible to receive?

Spousal support, known as alimony, is a payment from one person to another during or after a divorce. In California, most judges use a standard formula when calculating support amounts. However, several factors are calculated by how much alimony you are entitled to receive or are responsible for paying.  

There are three types of spousal support in California. Temporary, Rehabilitative, and Permanent spousal support. The court must consider the controlling statute 4320 when determining spousal support. However, the courts also have a tremendous amount of discretion on what influences how much support one receives.

Alimony support is required to help make the transition from a two-income household to a one-income household less overwhelming. While it may seem unfair, the goal is to help both parties be on as stable a financial foundation as soon as possible. Therefore, the court will determine spousal support after the establishment of child support.

We will help you understand the different types of alimony and how alimony is calculated in the state of California.

What Are The Three Different Types of Alimony?

1. Temporary Alimony 

The purpose of temporary alimony support is to help the person with a lower-earning income with expenses and maintain a standard of living they are accustomed to until permanent support is determined and assets and debts are divided.  Temporary alimony is paid while the divorce is pending. There is no expiration date, and there is no set time period for support. 

2. Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is the most common type of spousal support and utilized when one person was the primary earner while the other person primarily cared for the children. The goal is to support the individual and allow time for them to gain essential job skills or education so that they may join the workforce and help themselves.

3. Permanent Alimony 

The purpose of court-ordered permanent alimony support is to provide a sufficient income that will cover basic needs and standards that meet the spouse’s lifestyle receiving the support. Permanent support is generally reserved for marriages that lasted ten years or more or one person can not work due to age or illness. 

Factors For Determining Temporary Alimony Support

There are four factors the courts look at for determining temporary alimony support in California:

  • Income
  • Assets
  • Expenses
  • Debts

Guidelines When Factoring Rehabilitative Or Permanent Alimony Amounts

  • Duration of Marriage
  • Assets and Debt responsibilities of each person, including properties
  • Health and Age
  • Standard of Living Established
  • The ability for the individual receiving support to have sustainable employment
  • History of domestic violence against either party or the children
  • The ability of the Supporting Party to Pay Alimony
  • The level which the supported party contributed to career, education, etc. by the spouse paying the alimony
  • The earning capacity of each person
  • Tax consequences to each person
  • The goal is that the person receiving alimony will be self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time. Generally, this period is half the length of the marriage, but this is left up to the court’s discretion and may be longer or shorter based upon the factors listed.
  • Criminal convictions In accordance with Section 4325, criminal conviction of an abusive spouse will be considered.
  • The court may include other factors that deem just and equitable, and the court will consider these in determining the alimony support amount. (CA FAM 4320)

The general guideline for calculating alimony takes 35% to 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s income and subtracts 40% to 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s income. Depending on what county you live in, it will vary.

Consult An Attorney

Determining or modifying your spousal support payments can be a complex and confusing process. There are forms, documents, and court hearings to consider. Even if you and your spouse agree to the modification, consulting an attorney and ensuring you file the right paperwork is critical to your success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

Lost Your Job During The Pandemic? What You Need To Know About Paying Alimony

Lost Your Job During The Pandemic? What You Need To Know About Paying Alimony

The pandemic changed a lot for everyone, especially those who lost their jobs. In addition to job loss, some individuals lost income from Retention Stock Units (RSU’s) that were negatively impacted by the stock market drop. In addition, small businesses closed because of stay-at-home orders and mandatory shut-ins. 

Depending on the extent of financial loss you experienced, you may be unable to continue your alimony payments in the amount you are obligated to. In some cases, you may not be able to make the payments at all.

For example, if you or your former spouse experienced job loss due to the pandemic, you might be able to modify your alimony judgment. However, there are a few things you need to know about paying alimony or modification because of job loss.

Can Alimony Be Modified?

Depending on your alimony agreement, your alimony payments may or may not be modified. If the agreement does not list it as modifiable, then it can be. If the agreement does state that it cannot be modified, it should list circumstances where it can be modified. These circumstances can be job loss, disability, or other major life events. The third option is that the agreement states in no circumstances can it be modified.

How Can It Be Modified?

If alimony can be modified, the law states that the amount can be increased or decreased as circumstances and justice requires. In this case, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstances, such as job loss or reduced income since the original agreement or court order was issued. 

Be Up Front & Honest About Your Financial Situation

Even if you’re only anticipating a change in your income, it’s crucial to talk to your ex and explain the situation. Make it clear that you want to communicate and plan to modify payments when business picks up again. A little bit of goodwill and honesty will go a long way in working to lower support payments for now.

Remember, your ex is receiving this money because they need it. They’ll have to make adjustments to their expenses too. The more communication and time you can give to help them plan, the better the negotiation will go for now and in the future.

Try To Reach An Agreement Together

If you and your ex can have an open and honest discussion about your loss of income or potential, you may want to try and discuss coming to an agreement together. Unfortunately, courts are closed to hear cases during the pandemic, and it can be months before you can have a hearing or mediation. Not to mention, you’ll save time and money working things out together.

Be mindful that your tone is critical to your success. You don’t want to say anything that could be perceived as a demand or criticism. Communicate clearly, but empathize that you understand the impact this will have on them as well. If you and your ex can agree to an agreement, make sure you get it in writing and submitted to the court as is required.

When Does The Modification Go Into Effect?

In California, spousal or partner support cannot be changed retroactively. For example, if you lost your job three months ago and are just now filing papers to change your order, the judge cannot go back to the day you lost your job. They can only go back as far as the date you filed your papers in court requesting the modification.

What Do I Need To Do To File For A Modification?

If you and your ex can come to an agreement, you need to file the request to the court. The process of filing a request for modification takes quite a few steps:

  1.  Fill out your court forms – Check out the California Courts website for specific forms to complete.
  2. Have the forms reviewed by your attorney.
  3. Make two copies of all forms for your ex and the court’s copies.
  4. File the forms with the court clerk – the clerk will keep the original and return your copies stamped “Filed.”
  5. Get a court date.
  6. Serve the papers on your ex – you must have someone other than yourself serve these papers.
  7. File proof of service – once your ex has been served, file the proof of service.
  8. Go to the court hearing – take a copy of your papers and proof of service. Bring your proof of income and expenses to support your argument for modification.

Once the judge makes a decision, they will sign a court order. Once the order is signed, it cannot be modified unless another request is submitted. 

Consult An Attorney

Modifying your spousal support payments can be a complex and confusing process. There are forms, documents, and court hearings to consider. Even if you and your spouse agree to the modification, consulting an attorney and ensuring you file the right paperwork is critical to your success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

What Qualifies You for Alimony in California?

Are you facing a divorce and wondering if you qualify for alimony? This is a question a lot of people ponder about – many factors will influence spousal support in the state of California. 

What qualifies you for alimony in the state of California? Figuring out alimony can get complicated. There are 4 key elements to qualifying for alimony that you will need to understand. These are: 

  • The Length of Your Marriage
  • Marital Standard of Living
  • Debts & Assets
  • Ability to Become Employed

When it comes to divorce and money, it can be overwhelming, stressful, and emotional. In this article, we will go over a few key elements the State of California will look at to see if you or your spouse will qualify for alimony.  

1. Length of Your Marriage

If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, then you may have heard some legal terms such as pendente lite, alimony, and long-term spousal support. Understanding these legal terms will help you understand how the length of your marriage will impact a spousal support order.

Do not forget that you and your soon-to-be ex-partner can agree to a spousal support agreement without the court’s help. This would be the best possible outcome to have instead of going through the courts. 

Once the length of your marriage has been determined, there are 5 different types of alimony you can seek.

  1. Temporary Alimony
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony
  3. Permanent Alimony
  4. Reimbursement Alimony
  5. Lump-Sum Alimony

2. Marital Standard of Living

The marital standard of living refers to the lifestyle that both parties enjoyed during the duration of their marriage. This standard of living will include considerations such as:

  • How often did the couple eat out?
  • Where the couple usually shopped for clothing
  • How much did the couple spend on their housing situation?
  • How big is the marital house? 
  • Where was the marital house located? 
  • What types of schools did the children go to? 
  • Where and how often did the couple go on vacations?

After the divorce, it is typically not feasible for both spouses to maintain the same lifestyle as they once enjoyed together. 

For example, in re Marriage of Smith, this case describes the marital standard of living within your means. This case displayed that if both parties were spending more than the income they were taking each month, this should not be a deciding factor in what the court will determine as the marital standard of living. The court will then have to look at the actual income earned rather than the amount spent. 

3. Debts & Assets

A community property state, such as California, will look at all assets and debts obtained during the duration of the marriage. If you and your spouse have accumulated assets, such as houses, cars, boats, and the like, this will all get considered during the spousal support process. However, your debts and assets that you’ve obtained before you got married will be separate.

The one thing that the court will never take into account with spousal support is your student loans. It does not matter when you took the student loans out. In the court’s eyes, student loans are considered separate property. 

But, the courts can and will consider any bank accounts that you both shared, even if one name is on the account. As long as the other party would deposit their money into it, it becomes a community property at that point. The same goes for a retirement account. 

What you should know is that each party will have an equal share of all assets. The court will divide the assets equally between both parties. However, the parties can agree to do an unequal division if they want. 

When it comes to marital debt, the courts will not get involved. The debt will have to get settled between the two parties. The courts will not make a binding contract for any debt that stemmed from the marriage. For instance, if one party says they will pay all of the marital debt but does not pay them, the creditors can still come after both of you for the total amount. 

4. Ability to Become Employed

In situations where the other party is unemployed, it is common for the supporting party to ask for the other party to get put under a work efforts order along with a request for the Gavron warning, which is under Family Code 4332(b) states: 

“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court shall make specific factual findings concerning the standard of living during the marriage, and, at the request of either party, the court shall make appropriate factual determinations concerning other circumstances.”

When filing for a spousal support order, the court will advise the other party to make reasonable efforts to help them support themselves during this time. The court will also take into account all circumstances under Family Code 4320.

But also should remember that spousal support can last for only half of the length of their marriage if the marriage did not last longer than 10 years. However, if your marriage lasted longer than 10 years, there is no limit on how long the spousal support order can stay in place. This information will give you an idea of how long you may be paying for the other party.

Before You Respond or File– Let’s Talk

Before you decide to file or respond, you have a lot to think about. It can get overwhelming trying to figure out how to respond to your partners’ paperwork or figure what paperwork to file first. 

As long as you know any of these 4 qualifications to get spousal support, you are already ahead of the game. Divorcing is not pretty or easy, but understanding the law will help make it a more bearable time. 

At Azemika & Azemika, we know how spousal support works here in California because we specialize in California family law. We offer legal representation and advice based on understanding, trust, and integrity. Contact us today for your free legal consultation.