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The amount of spousal support, commonly known as “alimony”, to be paid (or received) is often one of the most important issues in a divorce action. How much must I pay (will I receive)? What will the duration of spousal support payments be? The law creates criteria and parameters for determination of spousal support. However, two different judges might reach different decisions after considering the law.
Types of Spousal Support
Temporary spousal support (pendente lite support) is intended to maintain the standard of living for the parties while a divorce action is pending. Temporary support is typically higher than permanent support. However, there can be exceptions and support can be higher or lower. Temporary support is generally determined using the guideline formula such as one found through computer software like DissoMaster or XSpouse. The formula considers the gross income of the parties along with various other income and deductions including, but not limited to, deductable property tax and interest payment on home loans, union dues, health insurance premiums and income or payment of support for prior marriages.
Permanent spousal support may be awarded in longer marriages as a monthly payment that continues for a specified duration. It is determined by consideration of several different statutory factors, including, but not limited to, the income of the parties, earning capacity of the parties, accustomed lifestyle, age, health, employability and career sacrifices made during the marriage. These statutory factors are listed in the California Family Code Section 4320.
Duration of Spousal Support
Short Term Marriages are presumed to be those lasting less than 10 years. As a general rule, the courts award the half-life of the marriage as the duration for support. For example, if the marriage lasted 64 months, spousal support or alimony would last for 32 months.
Long Term Marriages are presumed to be those lasting longer than 10 years and allow for spousal support to be awarded “for life” of the recipient. However, don’t assume the 10 year anniversary date to be a magic number guarantying support “for life.” There are other factors to be considered such as the actual duration (12 years vs. 26 years of marriage) and the future employability of the parties. The goal of spousal support is not to be a crutch for the supported spouse, but, rather, the assistance to become self supporting for his or her own benefit. In the event the court does order alimony “for life” such support generally terminates when the recipient dies or upon his or her remarriage or cohabitation with another partner.
So how can one estimate the amount of the support order?
This is quite difficult for the lay person and really boils down to the experience of the attorney. The Hyden Zakheim Law attorneys are regularly in court, have negotiated hundreds of support settlements, know the law, have experience with the judges' tendencies and the relevant facts that the court will consider in determination of alimony. In short, through countless hours of dedication and work, our attorneys have more than enough experience to provide the necessary assistance for your spousal support questions.
The goal of Hyden Zakheim Law is to use this experience and insight to resolve cases efficiently and cost-effectively through out of court settlements. We can help clients make informed decisions about when to take your chances in court and when settlement is the right decision.
At Hyden Zakheim Law, our attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced about the discretionary determination of spousal support in the context of the bigger picture of property division and finances. While we have had noteworthy results through litigation, we are most proud of our achievements in settling complex support issues. This has saved our clients tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and, perhaps more importantly, has taken the guesswork out of the equation by negotiating out of court specific spousal support amounts.