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Temecula Spousal Support Attorney

In the case of a divorce or legal separation, the court will at times compel one party to pay spousal support to the other. Much like child support, this payment is intended to help the at-risk party make ends meet. Often referred to as “alimony,” spousal support should not be overlooked and necessitates the need for an experienced Temecula spousal support attorney.

The litigation associated with spousal support hearings is often extremely complex and heavily-fought.  People generally do not like paying spousal support to the other party, and will fight tooth-and-nail to avoid it in many circumstances.  People even go as far as to try and hide money and assets to avoid paying, especially those parties that have the ability to do so because they are self-employed or in a position of financial power at their place of employment.

Spousal Support in Temecula

Spousal support is a valid aspect of divorce and separation cases, but a common misconception is that it is required in every situation. In many cases, alimony is not ordered by the court or the parties agree to “waive” their rights to spousal support.

Types of Spousal Support

There are two general types of spousal support in the state of California. Each comes with its own set of rules and requirements, but both are frequently ordered:

  • Temporary support. Temporary support, or pendent lite support, is ordered by the judge in situations where the divorce, separation, or dissolution of a relationship is expected to be financially straining on one party. Typically, temporary support is paid between the date of separation and final judgment.
  • Permanent support. Though not permanent in the sense that it lasts forever, permanent support is usually ordered in situations where the dependent party is unable to provide for him or herself in the future. Permanent support requires much heavier consideration and proof, but it is awarded in certain situations.

How is Spousal Support Determined?

As is the case with child support, spousal support requires careful and precise calculations. When a couple has only been together for a few months or years, spousal support is rarely awarded. However, when a marriage ends after many years or decades, it is not uncommon for spousal support to be a part of the divorce ruling. Temporary support is easily calculated and only looks at the supporting spouse’s ability to pay and the supported spouse’s needs. For permanent spousal support, the court may take into account the following variables and factors:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The amount of income each spouse receives.
  • The earning potential/power of each spouse.
  • Expenses of each spouse.
  • Whether or not there are children living at home.
  • The quality of life enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Physical or mental disabilities.
  • The health and age of each spouse.

When determining temporary spousal support, the courts may use a program called the Dissomaster®. At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, we have access to this program – an advantage that allows us to calculate accurate and appropriate estimates ahead of time. In addition to using highly technical tools that provide accurate figures, we also apply our years of family law experience to approach each situation in the appropriate manner. We are rarely – if ever – surprised by a court’s decision. Our attorneys know what to expect and understand what it takes to achieve results.

How does the Court Determine Spousal Support if Income is Variable?

When a spousal support obligor earns an income that is variable, the family court in Riverside County has several options for how to treat that income for alimony purposes.  Variable income is common in today’s world and it is important to understand how to effectively litigate these income scenarios, especially when alimony is concerned.  Common situations where a person has variable income include:

  • Sales commissions.  People who sell real estate or participate in other commission-based sales jobs have extremely variable income.
  • Bonuses.  Discretionary bonuses provided by an employer are often variable.
  • Stock and stock options.  Employer provided stock, stock options, and restricted stock units are often variable and depend on performance.  These stock benefits are income for support calculation purposes.

When a situation of variable income occurs intertwined with alimony litigation, Riverside County judges essentially have two options.  Their first option is to average out the variable income received by the support payer over a certain period of time such as over a year or several year period of time.  The second option is to adopt the Smith Ostler approach, which requires the alimony obligor to report their variable income to the opposing party and then pay them a certain percentage of the gross amount of that income.

How Much is Usually Ordered for Alimony?

The amount of alimony ordered varies wildly throughout Riverside County family courts.  The answer depends on the specific facts of the case, whether the spousal support is for temporary purposes or permanent alimony, the judicial officer assigned to the case, the length of the marriage, the urgency in finding gainful employment by the supported spouse, the needs of both parties, the assets owned by the parties, and so forth.

As an extremely general rule of thumb, one might expect spousal support to be approximately 35% of the gross income of the supporting spouse if the supported spouse is unemployed.  Of course, this is so generalized that it should not necessarily be used as a rule of thumb because there are so many variables that may change this presumed amount.

Waivers of Spousal Support and Long Term Marriages

Under California law, marriages of at least ten years are “long-term” marriages under the Family Code.  This important legal concept relates to spousal support and the amount and duration that it will be ordered.  In certain cases, although extremely rare, the court has the ability to determine that a marriage of under ten years will be nevertheless considered “long term” for spousal support purposes.  When parties have been married long-term, it is more likely that they will establish a traditional family unit where one spouse is the primary earner and the other takes the primary responsibility to maintain the household and raise children.  While traditionally this has been gender-dominated by men as the primary earner and the female as the child-rearing spouse, these roles have started to move away from this norm in recent decades.  Gender is not allowed as a consideration for spousal support.

As a result, the law recognizes the need to have a long-term solution to ensure the stay at home spouse’s needs are taken care of within the context of the parties’ standard of living during marriage.

Regardless of the duration of a marriage, parties are allowed to waive spousal support, even under a long term marriage.  This is an extremely risky proposition and should very carefully be examined before entering into such an agreement.

Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP

At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, you will find qualified and compassionate attorneys with an intricate understanding of California state law and how the local Riverside County legal system operates. Whether you’ve been through a divorce case before or this is your first time dealing with a legal situation of this magnitude, we can help you navigate through the process. Both Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Finkbeiner are California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialists and possess years of trial and settlement experience.

For caring and compassionate family law attorneys who put your needs first, look no further than Wilkinson & Finkbeiner. We have a reputation for success and are known for our aggressive yet calculated approach to spousal support cases. For additional information and/or a free confidential case evaluation, please contact our team today.