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Types of Spousal Support
California offers four types of spousal support arrangement – temporary, rehabilitative, permanent, and reimbursement. Temporary support is a short-term option that lasts for the duration of the divorce process and ends when the judge finalizes the divorce. Temporary support is mainly to help the lower-earning spouse cover essential living expenses during the divorce process.
The most common type of spousal support is rehabilitative support, an arrangement in which the higher-earning spouse provides the lower-earning spouse the support to obtain valuable job sills or education to enter the workforce and eventually become self-supporting. This is often granted to spouses who cared for the children and home during the marriage while the other higher-earning spouse was the primary earner.
Permanent spousal support is rarely awarded and reserved for long-term marriages (10 or more years), where one spouse cannot enter the workforce due to illness or old age. Permanent support generally lasts until the supported spouse remarries or if either person dies.
Reimbursement support is unique to California, and it is granted in cases when one spouse helped finance the other’s education or career advancement training during their marriage. In such a case, the spouse who financed these courses could request reimbursement support.
How the Court Determines Spousal Support
Either spouse has the right to request spousal support from the other, though it can only be granted if the requesting spouse needs the financial support and the other spouse has the means to provide it. To determine temporary support, the court will examine both spouse’s finances, such as their income, expenses, assets, and debts.
To determine whether to grant rehabilitative or permanent support, the court will examine each spouse’s income and evaluate the following factors:
- each spouse's earning capacity;
- the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the other's educational degree or professional license during the marriage;
- the paying spouse's ability to pay spousal support, considering their earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
- each spouse's needs, based on the marital standard of living;
- each spouse's debts and assets, including separate property;
- the length of the marriage;
- the supported spouse's ability to become employed without interfering with the care of their minor children;
- each party's age and health;
- whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against either party or the children;
- tax consequences to each party;
- the balance of hardships to each party;
- the goal that the recipient spouse will be self-supporting within a reasonable period;
- any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse; and
- any other factors the court deems relevant.
For reimbursement support, the court will merely consider the amount of money spent on the spouse’s career or education.
The court will specify how the paying spouse should pay spousal support, which can be in the form of a one-time lump-sum payment of property or cash (foregoing the need for ongoing payments) or, more commonly, through periodic monthly payments with an income withholding order that directs payroll to withdraw the spousal support from the paying spouse’s employee paycheck.
If they can demonstrate a significant change of circumstances since the original order, either spouse can ask the court to modify or terminate the support order. This may be the case if the supported spouse is not making a good-faith effort to become self-supporting (e.g., they are not job-searching), or if the paying spouse becomes ill or disabled and can no longer make payments.
For legal assistance on any stage of your spousal support dispute, contact the Law Offices of Kimberly Prendergast. We can help you with every step of the process, from requesting support to petitioning for a modification. We take a compassionate and personalized approach to our practice, and you can trust that we will build a case with your best interests in mind. We support both paying spouses and receiving spouses, and we will advocate firmly for your spousal interests.
Schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Kimberly Prendergast online to get started.
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