Spousal Support Attorney (Alimony)
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Spousal support (alimony) is often a key legal matter that clients are worried about
An experienced divorce lawyer at California Family Law Firm can help guide you through the formulas and factors that the judge will consider in making child support and spousal support (alimony) orders. We will discuss your options for when to file for child support or spousal support (alimony), how much support can be expected, when support is ordered by the judge, and any additional questions that may arise.contact us now
Spousal Support Attorneys at Our Family Law Firm in Orange County, California Can Help
If you are looking for information regarding a spousal support / alimony case and your rights, we are here to help. To schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options with an experienced attorney at California Family Law Firm, a top spousal support / alimony law firm in Orange County, call us at(949) 503-7200 or send us a message in the form at the bottom of the page. While most people refer to the financial support payments made to a former spouse as “alimony,” the California Family Courts formally refer to alimony as “spousal support.” Here, we will use both terms simultaneously in order to familiarize you with the terminology as it will be used by the Court. California Family Law Firm represents residents of Southern California for legal services in all types of divorce issues, including those related to initial spousal support / alimony court orders, spousal support / alimony modification, spousal support / alimony enforcement, litigation regarding your or the other party’s income, Smith-Ostler calculations, and all other legal issues related to spousal support / alimony cases. We are experienced in the legal process of spousal support / alimony cases and can guide you through uncontested spousal support / alimony agreements, high conflict contested spousal support / alimony actions, and everything in between. How a case proceeds, the amount of time it takes, and the cost depends on not only you, but also the other party. You can discuss all spousal support / alimony issues with your spousal support attorney / alimony attorney during your initial consultation. You will undoubtedly have questions about the amount of spousal support / amount of alimony you will receive or be ordered to pay, the timing and frequency of spousal support payments / alimony payments, and the potential for wage garnishments, and we are here to help. Oftentimes, the legal process can be frustrating and confusing. Spousal support / alimony legal proceedings may come at a time of uncertainty and sometimes instability. An experienced spousal support lawyer / alimony lawyer at our firm will go over every step of your case, from drafting an initial letter to your spouse or former spouse advising of representation, to completing and filing all required Family Court forms and pleadings, to coordinating service of all required documents, to litigation or settlement of all issues. We will discuss spousal support / alimony calculation, how long a spousal support / alimony court order may remain in effect, the taxability or tax deductibility of spousal support / alimony, how to calculate monthly income when it is irregular, what happens in the event a party refuses or is unable to work, and the next steps we can take when a party is behind on their spousal support / alimony obligations.
Temporary Spousal Support / Temporary Alimony Calculation
Spousal support / alimony is calculated in two separate ways, depending on the status of where your case is at in the divorce process. The two different types of alimony are temporary spousal support / temporary alimony and permanent spousal support / permanent alimony. When divorce proceedings are pending, but before finalization, the Court may order temporary spousal support / temporary alimony. But at trial or settlement of your divorce case, or after your case is finalized, the Court may order permanent spousal support / permanent alimony. Temporary spousal support / temporary alimony is ordered based upon Family Code section 3600, the case In Re Marriage of Burlini (1983), and other related case law. Your divorce lawyer will work with you to determine the potential for temporary spousal support / temporary alimony. The factors analyzed by the Court are the needs of the receiving spouse, the supporting spouse’s ability to pay, any history of domestic violence, and the marital standard of living. Practically, the Court will likely use the same calculator used for child support (although a different formula), to calculate the support amount. While the formula itself is rather complicated, a spousal support lawyer / alimony lawyer at California Family Law Firm can enter all of the relevant numbers into a calculator and give you an idea of what the support order in your case may look like. The formula can be simplified into three primary factors: (1) your income, (2) the other party’s income, and (3) the amount of child support paid, if any, which is based up child custody. There are many secondary factors as well, such as health insurance costs, retirement deductions, mortgage interest, property taxes, and more, but the three primary factors can help to at least give clients a broad idea of what their support order may be. The amount of spousal support / amount of alimony is based the net monthly disposable income available to each party, as calculated by the inputs discussed above. The formula that Courts use in calculating the support order is very likely to be used on a temporary basis with few exceptions. The most common exception is when one party is not earning up to their ability. If the Court believes a spouse is not earning up to their ability, they can impute income upon that party, meaning treat that party as if they are earning a certain income even when they are not. To impute income upon a spouse, a Court must find that the party has the ability and opportunity to earn the wage alleged by the other party, as well as find that the imputation of income is in the best interest of any children. This usually occurs in the cases of one party returning to the workforce after time as a stay at home parent, but can also occur when that party marries a new spouse who supports them, relies on other family to support them, or simply quits their job out of spite of their support obligation. Calculation of earning capacity can be potentially difficult to prove, and can include factors such as age, occupation, skills, education, health, background, work experience, and qualifications. It may also require a vocational evaluation of that party. A spousal support lawyer / alimony lawyer at our firm can walk you through your specific case circumstances, prepare all necessary Court pleadings, and provide the strong representation needed to give your case the best chance of success. We will discuss permanent spousal support / permanent alimony a few sections lower.
When Is Spousal Support or Alimony Paid and For How Long Is It Paid?
It often takes months for a hearing on spousal support / alimony to take place after the motion is filed, absent exceptional circumstances. A support order can be made retroactively to the filing date of the motion to pursuant to Family Code section 3653. Oftentimes, a Court will make the order retroactive to the first day of the month following the filing. For example, if a motion were filed on July 19th and the hearing is not until October 4th, the judge would likely make an order for spousal support / alimony for the months of August, September, October, and going forward. A support order will often include either that payments are due in full on the first of the month, or one-half on the 1st and one-half on the 15th of the month. The length that spousal support / alimony will be paid for is not fixed by law. The amount of time that spousal support / alimony will be ordered is primarily based upon the length of the marriage. When the length of the marriage is less than 10 years, the marriage will likely be declared a “short term marriage,” and spousal support / alimony will likely be ordered for half the length of the marriage. For example, if a marriage lasted 8 years from the date of marriage to the date of separation, then spousal support / alimony would likely be ordered for 4 years. However, if the duration of the marriage is close to 10 years, the Court may declare it a “long term marriage,” and spousal support / alimony would be ordered on a permanent basis (although despite the name, it may not last forever). When the length of the marriage is 10 years or more, then there is a presumption that spousal support / alimony would be ordered on a permanent basis pursuant to Family Code section 4336, meaning the Court will not set a termination date, unless agreed otherwise by the parties. Finally, the issue of spousal support / alimony does not have to be litigated. It can be settled. However, proper legal representation is vital, as specific language must be used in support orders, and if that language is not included then the agreements made may be unenforceable. A spousal support attorney / alimony attorney at California Family Law Firm can guide you through the process.
Permanent Spousal Support Orders
Whether spousal support / alimony is ordered for a short term marriage or a long term marriage, the Court will make an order for “permanent” spousal support / alimony at trial. The word permanent can be misleading however, because it only refers to the Court’s spousal support / alimony order in the Divorce Judgment. Even if the spousal support award / alimony award is “permanent,” it may be ordered for a fixed period of time, such as half of the duration of the marriage in a short term marriage. However, it could also be ordered without a termination date, if the Court determines the marriage was one of long term. Even if it is ordered without a termination date, that does not mean that the Court cannot later reduce the spousal support award / alimony award, ore even terminate it altogether. We will discuss that more later. In making an award for permanent spousal support / permanent alimony, the Court will analyze the factors stated in Family Code section 4320. Those factors are summarized below: 1) The marketable skills and job market for those skills of the supported party; 2) The extent to which the supported party’s earning capacity was impaired by domestic duties in the household; 3) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the education, training, career position, or licensure of the supporting party; 4) The ability of the supporting party to pay support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, income, assets, and standard of living; 5) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage; 6) The obligations and assets of each party, taking into account all of each party’s financial resources - both community property and separate property; 7) The duration of the marriage, from date of marriage through date of separation; 8) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party; 9) The age and health of the parties; 10) Any documented evidence of any history of domestic violence against either party or their child, including criminal conviction; 11) The tax consequences to each party (discussed more later); 12) The balance of the hardships to each party; 13) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time; 14) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable. At the hearing or trial, the Court will analyze each party’s income, as defined in Family Code section 4058, which includes a wide ranging definition of income. If a party is self-employed or has irregular income, then the Court may set a base amount of monthly spousal support / alimony, and an order for a percentage of any bonuses, overtime, or distributions the paying party receives, called a Smith-Ostler order. The percentage of additional pay owed will vary depending upon the amount of additional income received. When the parties are able to reach an agreement and avoid a hearing or trial on the issue of spousal support / alimony, they do not have to base it upon the factors stated above. The amount may be any amount as agreed upon by the parties. However, even in this case, it is important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible so that you can properly address the issue in your case and protect your rights. Another alternative is a lump sum spousal support / lump sum alimony buyout. In that scenario, the parties may reach an agreement for all spousal support / alimony to be paid at one time rather than over several years. This may be beneficial if the parties want to fully separate and cut all contact after their divorce, or they expect to receive a large sum of funds from sale of marital property, such as their marital residence. However, this can have significant tax consequences to both parties, and consultation with both a family lawyer and accountant should be considered. As you can see above, there are many relevant factors the Court takes into account when making orders for permanent spousal support / permanent alimony. During our representation, an experienced attorney at California Family Law Firm can help explain these in further detail, advise on what we can highlight versus what we can downplay during litigation, and any changes that could be made to set you up for the best possible outcome. In order to ensure you preserve your claims regarding spousal support / alimony, proper legal assistance is a must in your family law matter. Whether you are seeking representation during a divorce for temporary spousal support / temporary alimony, at the time of trial for permanent spousal support / permanent alimony, or are looking to modify your support orders post-Judgment to ensure you are not overpaying support, a confidential consultation with a spousal support
Taxability or Tax Deductibility of Spousal Support
Spousal support / alimony payments used to be fully taxable to the receiving party and fully tax deductible to the paying party under both federal and California tax laws. However, in 2019, that changed, at least for federal taxation purposes. For spousal support / alimony orders executed (signed by a judge) prior to January 1, 2019, spousal support / alimony remains federally taxable and tax deductible. However for any orders initially made or modified on January 1, 2019 or later, spousal support / alimony is federally non-taxable to the receiving party and federally non-tax deductible to the paying party. In contrast, spousal support / alimony still remains taxable and tax-deductible pursuant to California tax laws, whether the order was executed before or after 2019. There are currently efforts to conform California spousal support / alimony tax laws with federal law, but those efforts have not resulted in change at this time. It is also significant to note that spousal support / alimony can often be used as income for consideration of applications related to housing rentals, mortgages, or loans/credit cards by the party receiving support.
Hiring the Right Spousal Support Attorney for Your Case
It is extremely important to choose the best representation possible when spousal support / alimony is at stake. Your spousal support lawyer / alimony lawyer will discuss your and the other parties’ incomes, the potential for imputation of income, the ability to enforce alimony obligations, and many other factors in crafting your spousal support request to the Court, tailoring the pleadings to your unique situation and providing you the strong legal representation you deserve.
What do you do if the other party does not pay spousal support as ordered?
When there is an order for spousal support / alimony made, the party ordered to receive support may file an Earnings Assignment Order (form FL-435) with the Court. Once the judge signs the Earnings Assignment Order, then it may be served upon the paying party’s employer, where the amount of spousal support / alimony will be withheld from their wages, and sent directly to the receiving party. However, be aware that only 50% of the paying party’s disposable wages may be withheld. If the other party has failed to fully pay their spousal support / alimony order, the first step is to file an Earnings Assignment Order, as discussed above. When that form is served upon the paying party’s employer, deductions for support may be removed directly from their wages as a wage garnishment and sent to the receiving party. The second step is to file a motion for back spousal support / alimony (arrears). This can be done by filing a motion with a payment history declaration and attachment (forms FL-420 and FL-421), where the amounts alleged are stated on a monthly basis. At the hearing on this motion, the Court will consider any proof of payments filed by the other party, the amounts of arrears owed, as well as statutory 10% annual interest owed on any arrears pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010. These amounts can add up quickly. As an additional motion, a party owed spousal support / alimony support arrears may file a motion for contempt against the owing party. This can result in community service, fines, and even jail time. It is a strong motivator for a party owing arrears to work out a payment plan with the party who is owed back spousal support / alimony. Family Code section 3557 also allows for collection of attorney’s fees in any action related to spousal support / alimony arrears, “upon determining (1) an award of attorney’s fees and cost under this section is appropriate, (2) there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and (3) one party is able to pay for legal representation for both parties.” If all of the above are established, an award for attorney’s fees is mandatory. Finally, collection of these amounts can be a significant concern. Obtaining an order for everything you are owed is one issue, but collecting those amounts can be an entirely different issue. Our law firm can help you obtain your orders in a concise Judgment that can be used as an additional wage garnishment, Writ of Execution (to collect from bank accounts), Abstract of Judgment (lien on property owned), or through forced sale of property or collection of funds through the paying party’s business. As seen above, falling behind on spousal support / alimony can have serious consequences, and collecting the amount owed can be complicated. You may be entitled to a Judgment for arrears, certain interest, and attorney’s fees. To ensure you collect what you are owed, contact a spousal support attorney / alimony attorney at California Family Law Firm to discuss your options.
What if I can't afford to pay alimony as ordered?
If you cannot afford to pay the full amount of your spousal support / alimony order, it is imperative you file a motion with the Court as soon as possible, since in most cases spousal support / alimony can only be modified retroactively to the filing date of your motion. Spousal support / alimony may need to be modified if you or the other party have a change in income or other related factors. Paying spousal support / alimony often requires a change of lifestyle, and many have trouble adjusting to their new incomes after support is paid. However, it is vital that you do not fall behind on spousal support / alimony. If you fail to pay spousal support / alimony as ordered, the other party may file a motion for back spousal support / alimony (arrears) against you, by filing their motion with a payment history declaration and attachment (forms FL-420 and FL-421), where the amounts alleged are stated on a monthly basis. You will be asked to gather any proof of payments for amounts the other party alleges you have failed to pay, which the Court will consider at the hearing. Additionally, the judge may order statutory 10% annual interest owed on any arrears pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010. These amounts can add up quickly. As an additional motion, a party owed spousal support / alimony arrears may file a motion for contempt against the owing party. This can result in community service, fines, and even jail time. It is a strong motivator for a party owing arrears to work out a payment plan with the party who is owed back spousal support / alimony. Family Code section 3557 also allows for collection of attorney’s fees in any action for related to spousal support / alimony arrears, “upon determining (1) an award of attorney’s fees and cost under this section is appropriate, (2) there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and (3) one party is able to pay for legal representation for both parties.” If all of the above are established, an award for attorney’s fees is mandatory. Spousal support / alimony arrears cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and can follow you for the rest of your life. Spousal support / alimony owed can be deducted from future wages, tax refunds, and even social security, workers’ compensation, disability, or unemployment before it is paid to you. Your bank accounts can be liquidated and your property can be sold without your consent. The state may suspend your professional licenses and/or drivers license, the federal government can refuse to renew your passport, and you may even be ordered to serve jail time. As seen above, falling behind on spousal support / alimony can have serious consequences and significantly disrupt your life. You may owe a Judgment, certain interest, and attorney’s fees. However, oftentimes these amounts can be negotiated to a lower settlement in order to save all parties time and attorney’s fees. To protect your rights, contact a spousal support attorney / alimony attorney at California Family Law Firm to discuss your options.
Legal Representation You Can Trust
At California Family Law Firm, we have the years of experience required to successfully litigate your case. Our law office will help guide you through the often overwhelming legal process of a spousal support / alimony case to help achieve the orders and results that are uniquely tailored to your circumstances. We do this through a cost-effective strategy of addressing the most immediate legal issues in your case first, and then methodically working with you through each remaining step of your case. If you are looking for a spousal support attorney / alimony attorney that can strongly represent your interests and protect your rights, who will help you fight back when needed but also be a voice of reason during settlement negotiations, who will be fully prepared for your Family Court hearings and trial, look no further than a spousal support lawyer / alimony lawyer at California Family Law Firm. Whether you are seeking a divorce attorney who can also assist with temporary spousal support / temporary alimony during divorce proceedings or at trial, or for help modifying a permanent spousal support order / alimony order post-Judgment, California Family Law Firm has the legal experience and qualifications needed to be your zealous advocate. Our law office is conveniently located in Irvine, although we serve those located throughout Orange County in Irvine, Newport Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Orange, Costa Mesa, Mission Viejo, Westminster, Lake Forest, Buena Park, Tustin, Yorba Linda, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, La Habra, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Placentia, Cypress, Rancho Santa Margarita, Brea, Stanton, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Seal Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Villa Park, Anaheim Hills, and all surrounding areas. We also serve those in Los Angeles County, and Riverside County. Strong legal representation near you is not only important, but vital to your case. We are available to schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options. Call us at (949) 503-7200 or send us a message in the form below to set up your consultation with an experienced family law spousal support attorney / alimony attorney at California Family Law Firm. Disclaimer: The information above does not establish an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. There are many factors that might influence or change advice specific to your case following a consultation. Contact California Family Law Firm at 949-503-7200 to speak with an experienced family law attorney in order to obtain legal advice specific to your individual case.
Family Law Case Testimonials
1) An attorney at California Family Law Firm, APC negotiated a quick settlement for spousal support / alimony following filing of a domestic violence restraining order where the other party had the sole household earning ability and the client was a stay at home parent. A strongly worded letter was necessary to gain a Stipulation on the matter and save all parties time and attorney's fees litigating the issue. 2) A client retained an attorney with our office seeking information on his spousal support / alimony rights. We guided him through different scenarios and reached an agreement with the other party for an amount of spousal support / alimony that everyone was satisfied with. 3) After intense litigation over the amount of a client’s income, an attorney in our office prevailed in obtaining an order based upon our client’s actual earnings from his business, rather than the higher amount of earnings the other side sought with the Court. We used forensic accounting to support our argument and win the case. 4) Attorneys in our office litigated a case where we successfully imputed income upon a party who refused to work, despite having the opportunity and ability to do so, after years of failing to work up to their ability and support themselves. 5) Our attorneys have successfully negotiated favorable child support and spousal support orders that allow military service members to stay financially secure.
6) A party who owned their own business with irregular earnings sought our office’s assistance in reaching settlement for a spousal support / alimony matter, resulting in an amount that they could afford to pay and that the other party accepted. 7) Our attorneys won a multi-day trial to keep our client financially secure with spousal support that she relied upon by successfully proving our client’s ex-husband’s financial assets and earning ability, following his request to the Court to terminate support orders. 8) An attorney with our office was retained by a client who was owed tens of thousands of dollars of back spousal support / alimony arrears. We successfully obtained enforcement orders that allowed collection of the full amount of spousal support / alimony owed, plus interest and attorney’s fees from the owing party’s bank account, tax return, and a lien on a rental property they owned. 9) At California Family Law Firm, our attorneys have litigated virtually every aspect of spousal support / alimony and realized success on every type of issue, from quick settlement of uncontested issues to calculation of complicated incomes, to litigating contested enforcement matters.
Strong Legal Representation Near You Is Not Only Important, But Vital To Your Case
If you are looking for a spousal support attorney that can strongly represent your interests and protect your rights, who will help you fight back when needed but also be a voice of reason during settlement negotiations, who will be fully prepared for your Family Court hearings and trial, look no further than an alimony lawyer at California Family Law Firm.contact us now
contact us for legal help
Strong legal representation near you is not only important, but vital to your case. We are available to schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options by either phone, video, or in person.949-503-7200 19200 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 454
Irvine, CA 92612.