Family Trial Attorneys

San Jose Spousal Support Attorneys

About Permanent Spousal Support in Santa Clara County

There are many factors that the court takes into consideration when determining spousal support in California. Because there are many factors and a lot of discretion involved, spousal support is often a heated and highly litigated issue in divorce proceedings.

Below are nine factors that are used to determine spousal support in California.

Ability to Pay & Earning Capacity

When determining whether to award spousal support, the court will consider one party's ability to pay, along with the other party's need for financial support. A party's ability to pay spousal support includes more than just base salary.

The court should also consider bonuses, overtime, self-employment income, 401(k) deductions, pension plans, and income from the exercise of stock options, among other income streams. There is no specific formula to determine ability to pay, which is why it is crucial to have an attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Need is based on what each spouse could earn to keep a standard of living close to what it was during the marriage. To determine a party's need for financial support, the court will look to more than their current income. It will also look to their earning capacity (what the person could potentially earn).

Earning capacity is based on several factors, including:

  • Marketable skills
  • The job market for those skills
  • Time and expense the spouse will need to get the education or training to develop more marketable skills or to get a job
  • The extent that earning capacity was impaired due to unemployment because the spouse was devoted to domestic duties

Together with figuring out a spouse's earning capacity, the court will consider whether having a job would make it too challenging to take care of the children. The court does not want the needs of the children to be sacrificed. The younger and more dependent the children, the more they will factor this into the analysis.

Length of Marriage

Length of marriage is one of the greatest factors when deciding the duration of spousal support. Alimony is intended to continue for a reasonable amount of time, until the receiving party can become self-supporting. For short-term marriages, the court typically considers half the duration of your marriage to be a reasonable amount of time.

However, under California law, if you have been married 10 years or more, the court has the discretion to order lifetime spousal support to the low-earning party. Lifetime support is not automatic, but the court can award it if the marriage is considered long-term. Additionally, there is California case law that says the court has the discretion to consider a seven- or eight-year marriage as long-term. If you are in a rocky marriage and do not think your marriage will last, the seven-year mark is critical when you are the high-earner. At the seven-year point, you should seriously think about whether you want to continue the marriage.

Schedule a one-on-one consultation with our attorneys. Call us at (408) 676-1814 to discuss your alimony case.

Assets & Liabilities

In addition to income, the court will look at each spouse's assets and liabilities to understand their ability to pay and their need. It will look both at community and separate property to determine each spouse's net worth.

Whether One Spouse Helped the Other Get an Education, Training, Career, or Professional License

The court will consider whether one spouse helped the other receive an education, training, or professional license. This situation often occurs when one spouse was the homemaker, while the other spouse went to school or obtained a license to increase their earnings. California law considers it unfair for the spouse who received the increased earnings and education not to give back to the spouse that made sacrifices.

Domestic Violence

When there is documented evidence of domestic violence in a relationship, the court must consider it and the emotional distress that resulted. Additionally, under California law, there is a rebuttable presumption against giving spousal support to a spouse who had a criminal conviction of domestic violence against the other spouse within five years before filing for divorce, or any time after.

Standard of Living Established During the Marriage

Spousal support is granted in part based on need. A spouse's need is determined by whether they can maintain the same standard of living after the divorce. The standard of living must be reasonable, and the court may make adjustments.

Age & Health of the Parties

The court may increase spousal support if one of the spouses is in poor health or older. These factors may make it harder or impossible for them to be gainfully employed and, therefore, must be considered.

Tax Impact of Spousal Support

The court will also consider the tax impact of spousal support. The tax consequences can be complex. In certain situations, spousal support may be taxable or deductible in California.

Any Other Factors the Court Deems to Be Just & Equitable

The court can take into account anything that it considers relevant and necessary to determine a just and equitable spousal support award. This gives the court broad discretion.

Understanding the Importance of Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a critical aspect of divorce proceedings that aims to provide financial assistance to the lower-earning spouse after the marriage ends. At Moreno Family Law Firm, we understand the significance of spousal support and are committed to helping our clients navigate this complex area of family law.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Financial Stability: Spousal support ensures that the financially dependent spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living and meet their basic needs.
  2. Equalizing Disparities: In many marriages, one spouse may have sacrificed their education, career, or professional opportunities to support the other spouse's pursuits. Spousal support helps to balance these disparities and provide the necessary support for the dependent spouse to rebuild their life.
  3. Duration and Amount: The length and amount of spousal support are determined based on various factors, including the length of the marriage, earning capacity of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
  4. Tax Implications: It's important to consider the tax implications of spousal support, as it can have significant financial consequences for both parties. Our experienced family lawyers can guide you through the tax implications and help you make informed decisions.
  5. Modifications and Enforcement: If there are significant changes in circumstances, such as job loss or increase in income, spousal support orders can be modified. Additionally, if the paying spouse fails to comply with the court's orders, enforcement actions can be taken to ensure the recipient spouse receives the support they are entitled to.

At Moreno Family Law Firm, our San Jose spousal support attorneys have extensive experience in handling all aspects of spousal support cases. We are dedicated to protecting our clients' rights and ensuring a fair and just resolution. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your specific situation.

To speak with one of our experienced San Jose spousal support lawyers, contact us online or give us a call today. 

Commonly Asked Questions

How does the court determine spousal support in California?

The court considers multiple factors, including the ability to pay, earning capacity, length of marriage, assets and liabilities, whether one spouse helped the other get an education or career, domestic violence, standard of living, age and health of the parties, tax impact, and any other factors deemed just and equitable.

What is considered in the ability to pay for spousal support?

The court considers not only the base salary but also bonuses, overtime, self-employment income, deductions, pension plans, and income from stock options, among other income streams.

How is the need for spousal support determined?

The need is based on what each spouse could earn to maintain a standard of living close to what it was during the marriage. The court considers the earning capacity, marketable skills, job market, education or training required, and the ability to take care of the children.

Does the length of marriage affect spousal support?

Yes, the length of marriage is a significant factor. For short-term marriages, the court typically considers half the duration of the marriage as a reasonable amount of time. However, marriages of 10 years or more may result in the court's discretion to order lifetime spousal support.

What role do assets and liabilities play in determining spousal support?

The court examines both community and separate property to understand each spouse's net worth and ability to pay. Assets and liabilities are considered in addition to income.

Serving San Jose & Santa Clara County

Contact The Moreno Family Law Firm

Our attorneys are ready to help you through your divorce and related family law matters. Contact our firm today via our online form or call us at (408) 676-1814 to get started.

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