During the pendency of a dissolution proceeding (i.e., before Judgment is entered), the family court may order either spouse to pay temporary spousal support to the other, if there is a demonstrated need by the supported party and an ability to pay by the supporting party. Spousal support (also known as alimony) is generally taxable to the recipient spouse and tax-deductible to the payor.
The general purpose of temporary spousal support (pre-judgment) is to maintain the status quo of the marriage, to the extent possible. However, often times, family courts realize that the parties cannot do so, since the parties are now maintaining two separate households. As a result, the family court will equitably allocate the family income, while considering the parties’ separate incomes and expenses, when establishing a temporary spousal support amount pending the trial or final Judgment in your matter.
Permanent spousal support is ordered at the time of Judgment, or final resolution of your dissolution proceeding. Its purpose is to provide financial assistance where appropriate, in consideration of each parties’ financial position after the marital estate has been divided.
In determining a permanent spousal support award, the family court will consider the relevant subsections of Family Code section 4320, which may include earning capacity; the extent to which the supported party contributed to the supporting party’s education, training career, or license; ability to pay; each party’s needs based upon the standard of living established during the marriage; each party’s assets and obligations; the duration of the marriage; the recipient party’s ability to be gainfully employed; each party’s age and health; any history of domestic violence; immediate and specific tax consequences of each party; the balance of the hardships; the goal that the supported party become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time; any criminal convictions; and any other factors the court deems just and equitable.
A supporting party’s obligation to continue paying “permanent” spousal support varies – it is not necessarily paid on a permanent basis. When the supporting party has the ability and opportunity to earn more than he or she is earning, but refuses to do so, the family court may impute income (i.e., “ghost” wages) to deter any shirking of the supported party’s ability to become self-supporting.
The length of a permanent spousal support order also varies. In a marriage of long duration (over 10 years), the permanent spousal support obligation may last indefinitely, until the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or the death of either party. In a short-term marriage, or a marriage of less than 10 years, the general rule regarding duration is the family court will order a support obligation for a term equal to ½ the length of the marriage.
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