When a couple decides to divorce in California, they must address multiple legal issues before their marriage can be formally dissolved. One of those issues is the matter of spousal support. This determines whether one spouse will have to make payments to the other to financially support them after a divorce. Spousal support is not granted in every divorce case. It is only available to individuals who meet the state’s eligibility requirements and are approved by the court.
What Is Spousal Support?
Spousal support is commonly referred to as alimony. It is a court order that requires one spouse to make regular payments to the other during or after a divorce. It is intended to ensure that they can support themselves. Alimony is designed to aid the low-earning spouse during and after this transitional period of their lives. In many cases, the low-earning spouse made sacrifices to help their partner increase their earning capacity. In others, they may have let go of their job completely to care for their family. Spousal support often requires the high-earning spouse to pay the low-earning spouse until they are comfortable on their own. The exact length of time that one spouse must make payments to the other can vary. Usually, it will depend on the type of spousal support that they were granted.
Types of California Spousal Support
There are multiple forms of alimony that can be assigned in California. All of them can have varying requirements for eligibility. The primary kinds of California spousal support are:
- Temporary Spousal SupportAny type of alimony that is granted to an individual before the divorce is finalized is considered temporary spousal support. In some situations, the low-earning spouse may be granted alimony during the divorce process. This is intended to assist them with meeting their basic needs, paying for an attorney, and other essentials during this transitional period. The court may order temporary spousal support until the divorce is finalized. It may either terminate it then or extend the order as they see fit.
- Long-Term Spousal SupportAlimony that is granted once the divorce has been finalized is considered long-term or permanent spousal support. In most cases where long-term support is granted, the court does not assign an end date for the payments. Instead, it keeps permanent jurisdiction over the matter. Both individuals have the right to petition to change or terminate the support at any time. Otherwise, it is left as ordered unless either spouse passes away or the receiving spouse remarries.
- Rehabilitative Spousal SupportRehabilitative spousal support is a form of alimony that is based less on time and more on the current situation of the receiving spouse. This type of alimony is designed to help the receiving spouse until they can become self-sufficient again. It can be ordered for an indefinite period, such as until the receiving spouse gets their degree or finds a new job. Rehabilitative spousal support is usually granted to a low-earning spouse who sacrificed their own job or life. They originally did this so that their partner could have a better job.
- Reimbursement Spousal SupportSometimes called “lump-sum alimony, reimbursement spousal support is a more unique type of support. It attempts to compensate the receiving spouse for sacrifices they made during their marriage. Spouses who helped fund their partner’s education or vocational training may be compensated for what they paid through reimbursement alimony.
Who Qualifies for Spousal Support in California?
California’s spousal support laws are gender-neutral. This means that they do not base their decisions on the gender of each spouse. Instead, both spouses have the right to request alimony and have a judge evaluate if they are eligible. A judge will take a wide range of elements into consideration when deciding whether to grant alimony, such as:
- The length of the marriage
- The income of each spouse
- The unique needs of each spouse
- If children are involved
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Contributions and sacrifices made by either spouse
- The age and health of both spouses
In most spousal support cases, the higher-earning spouse is required to make payments to the lower-earning spouse until they are self-sufficient.
Q: How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Qualify for Spousal Support in California?
A: California does not require a couple to be married for a specific amount of time for one of them to be eligible for spousal support. Instead, they allow either spouse to request spousal support during their divorce proceedings. They will evaluate multiple factors to decide whether an individual should receive it.
Q: Can You Change a Spousal Support Order in California?
A: It is possible to have a spousal support order modified after it has been implemented in California. However, the individual requesting the modification of the order must prove that there has been a substantial change in their life that requires this modification. This could include, for example, the paying spouse losing their job or becoming disabled.
Q: Is Spousal Support Mandatory in California?
A: Spousal support is not mandatory in the state of California. Individuals have the right to request it during a divorce. They can also reach agreements with their partners outside of court. Spousal support is often awarded if one spouse makes significantly more than the other. It may also be awarded if one spouse stayed home to raise their children.
Q: What Stops Long-Term Spousal Support?
A: The court itself may decide there is a reason to terminate long-term spousal support. Otherwise, the only other way that the payments will end is if the receiving spouse remarries or one of the spouses involved passes away. However, if the ex-spouses can come to an agreement on a date to end the long-term support, the court will most likely allow it.
Santa Barbara Spousal Support Attorneys
At Drury Pullen Law, our experienced family lawyers have helped a multitude of individuals and families across California. If you are looking for assistance requesting spousal support, modifying an active order, or need a lawyer to represent you during litigation, our team is prepared to help. To learn more about our firm, or to request a consultation, contact us today.