Spousal Support Basics for Setting "Permanent" Support / by Cassandra Hearn


Couples often make financial decisions together during the marriage that are good for the marriage: but, when the marriage is over, those financial decisions can leave one spouse at a financial disadvantage.  For example, when one spouse stays home or delays their career to support the other spouse and the family, spousal support (also called alimony) naturally becomes an issue during divorce.

 Permanent alimony is designed to help a supported spouse maintain the standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage. However, "permanent" does not necessarily mean the receiving spouse will receive support forever; rather, it means "permanent" in the sense that it is entered at the time of the final decree of divorce. Unlike temporary alimony, there is no mathematical formula that is used to determine an appropriate amount of long term support. Instead, the court will examine a variety of factors to determine if permanent alimony is appropriate. These factors include:

-          The marketable job skills of the spouse requesting support. This will also include an inquiry into the state of the job market, the time and expense it will require for the spouse to get the skills necessary to obtain a job, and whether the spouse is going to need to be retrained to enter the market in order to be more marketable;

-          Whether and to what extent the requesting spouse's earning capacity is diminished because he or she was not in the job market due to remaining at home to devote time to domestic responsibilities;

-          The supported spouse's contribution and support to the paying spouse's career or attainment of an education or training;

-          Whether the paying spouse has the ability to pay support. This will also take into account the spouse's earning capacity, income, assets, and standard of living.

-          Both spouses' financial needs, in light of their typical standard of living as enjoyed during the marriage;

-          The debts of both spouses, both marital and separate;

-          The age and health of both spouses;

-          The ability of the supported spouse to work outside the home, in reference to whether working would hinder the spouse's ability to care for children in his or her custody;

-          Documented evidence, including a plea of nolo contendere, of any history of domestic violence, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child, including consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party;

-          The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party;

-          The balance of the hardships to each party;

-          The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse is weighed in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support; and

-          Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

 The length of the marriage is also pertinent. In California, a marriage over ten years in length is considered a “long-term” marriage.  Whereas marriages less than ten years typically follow a general rule of thumb that alimony may not be awarded for longer than half the length of the marriage. For example if the marriage was for eight years, alimony could be awarded for four years. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and that is why it is so important to work with a qualified attorney at the outset of your case.

Financial matters, including alimony, are central in almost every divorce. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 discuss alimony and what impact it may have on your case