The issue of Spousal Support, also known as Alimony, is one of the most common topics to deal with during a typical divorce case in Sacramento County.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are really two types of Spousal Support: Temporary Support and Permanent Support.
A party in a Divorce case will usually request an order for Temporary Spousal Support at the beginning of a case. The purpose of support at this stage is to maintain the parties lifestyle while the divorce case is pending.
Temporary Spousal Support is usually set by the Judge using a computer program approved by the California Judicial Council. This program essentially calculates the income of each of the parties and figures out the difference between their net incomes after deductions for items such as taxes and health insurance. The program will provide the Judge with an amount of support based on the difference between the parties' incomes.
The issue of Permanent or Post Judgment Spousal Support is determined at the end of the divorce case, usually by a settlement or trial decision.
The Court is prohibited from using the computer to calculate permanent support. Instead, the California Family Code requires that the Judge consider certain factors in making the support order. Some of these factors are: the ages and health of the parties, their education and income history, the ability of the spouse receiving support to become self-supporting after a reasonable period, the duration of the marriage and also if there has been any domestic violence in the marriage.
The biggest question regarding the issue of permanent support is the actual duration of the support order. If the parties were married less than ten years, there is a generally held presumption that support is typically one half of the length of the marriage. The Court will than set a date where the “jurisdiction is terminated”. In other words, Spousal Support can never again be ordered, for any reason.
If the parties were married for longer than ten years, a Judge can not terminate the issue of Spousal Support. In this case, Support is essentially open-ended. A support order can be made for many years. The paying spouse can request that the court reduce the amount of the support order, and even reduce the order to zero support paid. However, the issue will still be open for the future.
The only circumstances that will permanently end the issue of a permanent Spousal Support order are the remarriage of the supported spouse, or the death of either party.