How Long Does it Take To Get Spousal Support and How Long Does it Last?

Carlsbad, CA – If you are going through a divorce and seeking alimony, a common question is often how long will it take for that spousal support to begin?

two people pulling a $100 cash

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is paid from one spouse to another after they separate with plans for divorce. In California, spouses can request temporary alimony, permanent alimony, or both.

It’s important to remember that before any money exchanges hands, a written agreement or order for spousal support should be filed with the court. This will prevent any potential disputes over spousal support.

Alimony can begin before a divorce has completed, in fact, temporary alimony is in place to provide financial support to the spouse with the lower income while the divorce proceeedings are occurring. This alimony will end once an order for permanent alimony is awarded.

Permanent alimony is paid from one spouse to another after the divorce. Its purpose is to keep the lower income earning spouse at or near a marital standard of living.

It is always best to agree on a permanent alimony settlement between ex-spouses, however, when one can’t be reached a judge will determine the amount and length of the support.

When a judge in California looks at which spouse should pay support, and how much should be paid, he or she will be looking at multiple factors. They include:

  • The marketability of the skills of the supported spouse and the job market for those skills
  • The time and expense it would require for the supported spouse to further develop their skills, and the possibility of retraining or education to acquire more marketable skills
  • The extent to which the supported spouses income earning ability was impeded by devoting time to domestic duties in order to support the other spouse
  • Whether, and the extent to which, the supported spouse paid for the paying spouse’s education, training, license or career
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay, which takes into consideration earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets and standard of living
  • The needs of both spouses based on the marital standard of living
  • The debts and assets of both spouses
  • The length of the marriage
  • The ability of the supported spouse to work outside of the home, without interfering with caring for dependent children in his or her custody
  • The age and health of both spouses

Once the judge determines the answers to these, he or she will then determine the length of time spousal support should be provided. While permanent support sounds like the supported spouse will receive it indefinitely, that is not the case.

“Permanent alimony is rarely awarded on a true permanent basis,” says John Griffith. “The length of time support is paid is often determined by the length of marriage – the shorter the marriage, the shorter the amount of time you’ll receive, or pay, alimony.”

For shorter marriages, the length of payment is often no longer than half the number of years married. So for a marriage that lasted 10 years, the supported spouse would most likely be awarded support for five years.

For longer marriages, those lasting more than 10 years, there is no set rule as for how long support should be paid. The judge will consider multiple factors, and then determine a length of time that will keep the supported spouse at or near the marital standard of living until a time when he or she could become self-supporting.

In cases where one spouse makes significantly less than the other, an Order to Show Cause Hearing will be held, and at this time, temporary spousal support will be decided. This allows the supported spouse to receive payments while the divorce proceeding is going on, in order to ensure they remain at the standard of marital living.

When determining temporary spousal support, the court uses the same formula used to calculate the guideline for child support. The program determines the net disposable income, and then what the alimony should be on a temporary basis. While the courts can make other determinations, the formula is typically used unless there is evidence of a need to depart from it.

Reaching an agreement on temporary support is often a difficult one. The spouse seeking support often wants to continue living at their current standard, while the spouse paying may find that difficult and almost impossible while also maintaining their own lifestyle.

“It’s important to remember that every case is unique,” says Griffith. “In some cases, it won’t be possible for temporary support to cover all financial obligations of the supported spouse, due to debts and other obligations. Alimony cases can be complex, and requires an experienced attorney to negotiate them.”

Temporary spousal support can begin as soon as an agreement is reached and filed in court, and will continue until the final settlement is reached.

If you or someone you know is in need of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand spousal support, contact the attorneys at Griffith, Young and Lass today.


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