In the event that you find yourself facing a divorce or annulment proceeding, one of the first issues you may run into is alimony.  Alimony is a court-ordered sum of payments or provisions awarded to a spouse upon the dissolution of a marriage, and in some instances, even before that.  These payments are intended to provide maintenance and support for the dependent spouse and are typically only awarded if a spouse is unable to meet his or her financial needs without assistance.

Alimony comes in several variations which dictate the frequency and duration of payments.  Whether one is the obligor (independent) or obligee (dependent) spouse, it’s important to be familiar with the distinctions between the types to be prepared for a divorce or annulment proceeding.  Unfortunately, there is no magic ratio to determine how one might be ordered to pay support, but the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, can help.  Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC are a team of respected, knowledgeable and dedicated Ventura family law attorneys with vast experience in every area of family law from divorce to custody to alimony and child support.  Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC will treat your case with the sensitivity and professionalism needed to develop a strategy designed to achieve a favorable outcome. Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 for a free consultation.

What is Alimony Pendente Lite?

Alimony pendente lite (or alimony pending the litigation) is a temporary form of support awarded to a spouse while awaiting litigation.  These types of support orders are in effect only until the divorce or annulment case is tried or the lawsuit has concluded.  The purpose of alimony pendente lite (APL) is to allow the dependent spouse to prosecute or defend the action in an attempt to equalize the parties.  Once the action has been resolved, the APL order will be terminated.  This type of alimony is generally available where the recipient spouse has demonstrated a need for maintenance and professional services during the pendency of the proceedings .  Marital misconduct is not relevant to this type pf alimony and will not be considered when determining eligibility for APL.

Is Permanent Alimony Really Permanent?

Permanent alimony is not always “permanent” per se, but generally is a long-term payment plan whose duration is proportionate to the length of the marriage.  Unlike APL, permanent alimony is only issued after a final judgment of divorce or dissolution of a marriage.  Under California law, a marriage is defined as “long-term” if it lasts more than ten years.  The general rule is that if a marriage is not long-term, the time period for spousal support should not exceed the length of half of the marriage.  For instance, if a couple is married for 5 years, the law expects that a recipient spouse should be able to become rehabilitated and self-supporting in no more than two and a half years.  However, as family law cases are allowed a generous amount of discretion from the trial judge, this presumption does not always dictate and may be rebutted. If a recipient spouse is elderly, genuinely unable to return to the workforce, or caring for minor or disabled children, there is a high likelihood that their support duration will be extended.

For marriages over ten years, California Family Code Section 4302 lists 14 factors for ordering spousal support.  All of the following, among several others, will be considered in the determination of the amount and duration of alimony payments:

  • (a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account the marketable skills of the supported party and the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire education or develop more marketable skills;
  • (b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party;
  • (c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
  • (d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • (e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party;
  • (f) The duration of the marriage;
  • (g) The age and health of the parties;
  • (h) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as between the parties;
  • (i) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party;
  • (j) The balance of the hardships to each party;
  • (k) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time;
  • (l) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse;

As discussed, the court has wide discretion in family law matters and the judge will additionally consider any other factors determined just and equitable.

Can Alimony Be Modified or Terminated?

Either spouse may request that the duration and/or amount of alimony be modified in California.  This can be done by agreement between the parties, but in the case that an agreement cannot be reached, the parties must return to court.  The party attempting to modify the support order will be required to show a “material change in circumstances,” such as the loss of a job, from the time the original support order was made.

Work With an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Ventura, CA

Overall, alimony can be a complex topic, subject to numerous factors and wide discretion from the judge.  It can be daunting to try to guess at what the court might order, especially during an already emotional and sensitive time.  Fortunately, Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have the qualifications and dedication to help you tackle California’s complex legal system and provide you both peace of mind and results.  Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.