Alimony is often one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce case. Media and pop culture have always given the image that alimony is something that everyone dreads paying; however, the truth of the matter is that many spouses need alimony after a divorce because they cannot support themselves. Still, it may seem unfair for one spouse to support the other after ending the marriage, especially if there were serious relationship issues at the end of the marriage. The Santa Barbara divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain some of the ways that you may be able to avoid paying alimony or reduce your alimony burden when getting divorced in California.
Ways to Avoid Alimony in California
Many couples expect alimony or spousal support when they get divorced. If one spouse makes more money than the other or was solely responsible for the family’s income, their spouse might expect or demand alimony, but courts should only give in to those demands when a claim for alimony is justified.
Courts look at many factors when deciding whether to grant spousal support. The California Family Code gives multiple factors that the court should look at in each case, including the following:
- Each spouse’s income, assets, and debts
- Each spouse’s physical health and age
- Each spouse’s training, education, and experience that could lead to a job
- Each spouse’s ability to work while caring for young children
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living and lifestyle of the spouses during the marriage
Courts tend to try to use alimony to allow a transition period, favoring short-term alimony over permanent alimony. Especially in marriages lasting under 10 years, the courts will often limit spousal support payments to half the length of the marriage, which gives the recipient enough time to get back on their own two feet and support themselves again. However, courts may deny alimony altogether in cases where the spouses are on equal financial footing and can each take care of themselves.
Courts typically deny alimony when both parties have jobs that can pay to support themselves. If one spouse makes more than the other, alimony payments may be small and would be used simply to even the financial differences. In cases where one spouse has primary child custody, alimony may also be necessary to offset their reduced income since they lose more working time to care for the children.
The majority of these factors deal with things that you cannot control. Courts tend to look at the couple’s financial situation as it naturally stands when deciding whether alimony is necessary. Courts tend to ignore intentional, voluntary decisions that harm these factors. For instance, you cannot quit your job or get yourself fired just to prove to a court that you have lower income and cannot pay alimony. Shaping your family’s finances by encouraging your spouse to work may help set your spouse up for lower alimony in case of a divorce, but there are other options for reducing the chance of spousal support.
Reducing or Ending Alimony Early
If the court orders alimony in your case, it may not last forever. Alimony is often temporary, and the alimony order will be set to expire after a certain period of time. However, alimony can be ended or reduced earlier if the underlying factors that led to the alimony decision have changed.
For instance, if your spouse gets a new job, recovers from a physical disability, or moves in with a new significant other, you may be able to convince the court to drop the alimony or reduce the amount you have to pay. You and your former spouse can also agree to end alimony earlier by signing an agreement.
Regardless of how much you might hate paying alimony, you cannot lower or stop payments on your own. You must wait for a judge to order alimony modification or approve your alimony agreement before you can stop paying or else you might face enforcement penalties.
Alimony Agreements to Cancel or Lower Alimony
Courts often allow spouses to have control over their own divorce if they can form agreements to manage their own case. This allows the spouses to negotiate terms and settle their divorce case instead of relying on the judge. This can greatly alter how alimony will work in your case and typically comes in the form of the following agreements:
When getting divorced, the court will typically let you and your spouse settle your divorce case out of court instead of arguing the terms in court and waiting for the judge’s decision. Fling an uncontested divorce with agreed-upon terms can also speed up your divorce case.
If you and your spouse agree at the time of the divorce that alimony is unnecessary, the court will usually not order alimony. Similarly, you and your spouse can agree to limit alimony, either in amount or duration.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Prenuptial agreements allow couples to set the terms of alimony before they even say “I do.” These agreements can be used to cap alimony at a certain level or deny alimony altogether if your spouse is willing to agree to the terms. If you cannot make an agreement before getting married or want to modify that agreement after the wedding, you can use a postnuptial agreement instead.
These agreements can also include complex clauses, such as adultery clauses, which can cancel or limit alimony for a cheating spouse or a spouse that violates other conditions. Courts tend to give couples a lot of leeway with these agreements, so talk to a lawyer about what terms might help in your case.
Call Our Ventura Spousal Support Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
If you are worried that your marriage may end in divorce or you have already filed for divorce, it is important to talk to a lawyer about how to reduce or avoid alimony payments. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free legal consultations to meet with working spouses and discuss how to stop or limit alimony and how to fight alimony in your divorce case. For your free legal consultation, contact our Ventura family lawyers today at (805) 643-5555.