Expert Spousal Support Attorneys
Serving Palm Desert | Indian Wells | Palm Springs | and All Desert Cities!
We delight in handling complex spousal support issues from all angles.
We want you to be informed about the law and to make it understandable
for you. Creativity and expertise can dramatically affect not only family
court outcomes, but also makes a huge difference in achieving fair settlements
whether through mediation or otherwise.
Family Code § 4301 establishes a statutory duty of support between married couples and registered
domestic partners, but it requires that a court first order support for
this support obligation to be enforceable. Support orders are obtained
by stipulation and agreement, or through contested support hearings. Spousal
support is generally not available in annulments unless at one party can
establish a "putative spouse" status.
Support awards may be ordered as
temporary support ("pendente lite spousal support") or they may be issued when
a Final Judgment or Decree of Legal Separation is entered. Different rules
apply to how temporary support is figured than those that apply to awards
of permanent or long-term support.
What is "Temporary" Spousal Support?
Temporary spousal support is intended to preserve the financial status
quo at the time of physical separation when people are moving from one
into two households. It has little to do with the length of the marriage.
It tends to be higher than judgment spousal support.
In fixing temporary support Courts focus upon the historical income and
expenses existing pre-separation - typically for the prior 12 months.
Each is required to submit before the hearing an Income and Expense Declaration
Most California counties have formulas that determine the amounts for temporary
spousal support. The two most important are Santa Clara and Alameda. The
support formula for Santa Clara County, which is generally used by Riverside
County, is as follows: From any amount which is not allocated to child
support take 40% from the net income of the payor spouse, less 50% from
the net income of the recipient spouse. The resulting number is the temporary
Because these numbers have to be tax effected in order to determine 'net
income,' the formulas are expressed in computer programs. The two
most common are the "Dissomaster" and "Xspouse". The
Indio Family Law departments utilize Xspouse. Into one of these programs
is inputted the gross incomes of the parties. If there are children, the
respective custodial timeshares between the parents as to each child,
in percentages, must also be entered.
Where a party is a self-employed spouse, their net pre-tax earnings must
be determined after deducting business expenses. This can be a complex
area, because what is deductible for purposes of Schedule C accompanying
a tax return is not binding upon California courts for purposes of figuring
support. If other words, what is deductible for IRS purposes may be added
back for support purposes. Only certain expenses matter for purposes of
temporary support in California. What doesn't matter is most personal
expenses (like utilities and credit card debt).
Since the court determines the support obligation weeks after a request
for support is made (by way of a "Request for Orders" (RFO)
application with is filed with the Superior Court), it typically makes
the support order retroactive to the date the request was filed. Spousal
support will only be issued retroactive to the date you file your RFO,
so it is smart to file your application sooner rather than later.
What Is "Permanent" Spousal Support?
In long term marriages or domestic partnerships, typically in excess of
10 years, 'permanent' spousal support is not determined by a guideline
formula but instead by
Family Code § 4320, which lists a number of factors that Courts must examine. In some cases
considering these factors results in a lower support entitlement or obligation
than at the temporary stage, but the chief considerations are (1) the
marital standard of living establishing during the final years of the
marriage, (2) the needs of the supported party, and (3) the ability of
the higher earner to pay. "Permanent" support is a misnomer
- it is more accurately referred to as "Judgment Spousal Support"
in order to distinguish it from "temporary spousal support."
Complications arise when one party is shirking their responsibilities -
as when a non-custodial parent refuses to find employment or fails to
report their earnings honestly - or when a party is receiving financial
benefits that are disguised as borrowings, loans, or gifts from outside
family members. The law has expanded to require that Courts evaluate equity
in assets that might have been used to spin off an income but for the
investment decisions of the spouse who controls that asset, even where
the investment is passive and there is no taxable return or income stream
from such investments.
spouse's "new-mate" income from either a remarriage or cohabitation is generally irrelevant for purposes
of setting either temporary or permanent support. However,
cohabitation by the supported spouse may create a presumption that their need for spousal
or partner support has been reduced.
If you are obligated to pay spousal support to your former partner, you
may want to consider having them undertake a
vocational examination. This may result in an imputation of income to them and so become a basis
to lower or terminate your alimony obligation.
Remarriage of your former spouse, or a new domestic partnership, will terminate your
spousal support obligation. So will the death of either party.
Support orders are critically important to you. You must have an experienced
support attorney who knows the legal details to obtain a fair and just
outcome at the outset because once the Court makes an initial award, you
could be stuck with it for years.
Want to Learn More About Spousal Support and Alimony in Marital Dissolution?
We've written DOZENS of articles about your rights and obligations!
Contact Expert Palm Desert Support and Alimony Attorneys
Thurman W. Arnold III, CFLS and Michael C. Peterson, CFLS!
We serve spousal support and alimony clients particularly within the desert
cities of Palm Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Joshua
Tree, Blythe, Hemet, Twenty-Nine Palms, Cathedral City, Indio, Desert
Hot Springs, Yucca Valley, and Riverside!