When you and your spouse are legally separated, it accomplishes many of the same goals as divorce and you become independent people in many ways.  Primarily, legal separation creates legal independence since it does not grant other types of independence while you are still officially married during separation.  In many cases, this can mean still paying spousal support or “alimony” during a separation – but this is not always the case.  The Ventura alimony lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain when you might have to pay alimony during legal separation in California.

Can You Get Alimony During a Legal Separation?

Typically, alimony is associated with divorce cases.  Courts order alimony payments in many divorce cases where one of the spouses cannot stand on their own without financial support from their ex-spouse.  This helps prevent spouses from staying in an unhappy marriage because they know it brings them financial support.  Because legal separation has many of the same financial effects of divorce, spousal support is often available in legal separation cases as well.

Alimony is typically ordered in any divorce case where it is needed.  When couples split their finances during a divorce, one spouse may be out of work or unable to work because of medical issues, time spent taking care of their children, or because they do not have marketable job skills they can use to support themselves.  When this happens, courts award alimony to help the spouse.  This may include permanent alimony payments to help them on a long-term basis or temporary alimony to help them for a limited time while they seek job training or education, find a new home, and find a job.

During a legal separation, you and your spouse will divide finances in much the same way as you would during a divorce.  Legal separation may not require a couple to split some assets, such as a shared home, and those decisions may be reserved for later if the couple gets divorced.  However, the couple will still have to divide savings accounts, investments, assets, and bank accounts.  This typically means ending any income sharing.

If one spouse has a job and the other does not, this means that the one spouse will no longer have any income.  Spousal support is often issued when one spouse has no income or has income that is too low to support them.  This can happen whether the couple is getting separated or divorced.  In fact, alimony pendente lite is a specific type of alimony often ordered in divorce cases while they are still pending to help a spouse without income or finances pay for their attorney’s fees, housing, and support during the divorce case.

Alimony Factors for Legal Separation Cases in California

If you and your spouse are filing for legal separation, it is important to plan out your finances and understand where your support will come from.  After separation, many spouses who may have spent years without a job may suddenly face financial independence, and they may need help getting a job.  In some cases, this will qualify them for spousal support, but it is important to look at the alimony factors the court considers when deciding whether or not they will grant alimony and how much the spousal support payments will be.

California Family Code § 4320 gives courts several factors to look at when deciding whether to grant alimony in a divorce or legal separation case.  These same factors are used to calculate alimony.  Some of the most common factors that courts look at include the following:

  • Each spouse’s income
  • The job skills and training each party has that could contribute to a job
  • Either party’s physical disability or health issues that prevent them from working
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The standard of living the couple was used to during the marriage
  • How much one spouse helped pay for the other’s education or professional license
  • Both parties’ ages and health

This is a two-step process, where the court first decides whether alimony is necessary then looks at these factors to see how much alimony should be paid and how long to pay it.  Courts typically see things like physical disabilities and old age as factors to push for alimony, while they may consider someone who is able-bodied and well-educated to be able to support themselves.

Courts can choose between permanent alimony and temporary alimony, meaning that some spouses might get alimony, but only for a limited time.  For instance, if you need job training or education to help you get a job, you might qualify for temporary alimony to pay for housing and support while you go back to school, but this support might end once you get a job.  Similarly, alimony to support you while you care for your children might only last until they are old enough for you to go back to work.  Talk to a lawyer about your financial situation and whether or not you might qualify for alimony in your specific case.

Call Our Ventura, CA Alimony Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation

The Ventura, CA family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth represent husbands and wives in divorce and legal separation cases and fight for alimony decisions that help our clients.  If you think you will need alimony or spousal support during your legal separation, call our lawyers today.  If you are legally separated but think that the alimony order in your case is unfair, call our attorneys for help seeking changes to the court order to lower alimony payments.  For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.