When going through a divorce, one of the most combative issues can be spousal support, commonly known as alimony. Typically, the spouse or partner that is financially stronger will be ordered to make payments to the other in the amounts and timeframes set by the court during the divorce process.
Whether you pay or receive spousal support, Moore Law for Children can help you negotiate fair terms and generate a compelling case so that you are cared for financially. The attorneys at Moore Law for Children work to obtain fair results for their clients under the law.
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support is the court-mandated financial assistance one spouse provides to the other as a result of a divorce settlement. The court decides the conditions and amount of spousal support as part of their judgment.
Common questions about Spousal Support are:
(1) how it is calculated?
(2) how much may I be receiving or paying?
(3) how long will I be receiving or paying support?
A real concern is how you will we go from sustaining one household to two. This is a difficult time emotionally as well as financially.
The purpose of spousal support is to assist in balancing the parties’ incomes post-separation and divorce in order to allow the lower-earning spouse time to become self-supporting. While the higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support, the amount of spousal support one receives is not an equal (50/50) division of the prior household income.
There are two types of spousal support orders – pendente lite and permanent support.
First, Pendente Lite support is an initial support order and does not require a review of the Family Code § 4320 factors. A pendente lite support order can be sought the very same day you file your Petition for Dissolution and is often determined based on running a DissoMaster or X-Spouse calculation. These are computer programs that calculate support based on specific financial information provided. The DissoMaster and X-Spouse calculation will look at the income earned by both parties and the net spendable income available to both parties after taxes as well as payment of child support or other spousal support orders. If you are the lower earning spouse, you may want to file this request sooner rather than later to allow yourself the ability to make some financial decisions such as finding a place of your own or being able to afford to pay the entirety of the household expenses for your current home.
Second, Permanent support orders are the final judgment support orders and must be based on a review of the § 4320 factors. These 14 factors include, among others:
- the age and health of the parties
- the earning capacity of the supported spouse
- the need for further training and education for the supported spouse
- the assets and obligations of the parties
- the ability of the supporting spouse to pay support
- domestic violence between the parties or against the party’s child(ren)
- the martial standing of living and
- the length of the marriage.
The length of your marriage (i.e. the time period between your date of marriage and your date of separation) is important because it will give you an idea of what the final support order will look like. The length of your spousal support order will depend on whether you have a short term or a long-term marriage. A short-term marriage is a marriage lasting less than ten (10) years. A long-term marriage is a marriage lasting more than ten (10) years.
If you have a short-term marriage, the Court has the ability to set a specific end date to your permanent spousal support order. The order for spousal support in a short-term marriage must be for a reasonable length of time. In the case of a short-term marriage, a reasonable length of time is typically considered to be approximately half the length of the marriage. So, if you were married for six (6) years, a reasonable length of time for spousal support would be three (3) years.
If you have a long-term marriage, then the Court cannot order a termination or end date to your spousal support order. Family Code § 4336. While the Court does not have the right to order it on its own, a termination date or a waiver of spousal support can occur for long-term marriages if both parties agree to it and enter into a Stipulation or Stipulated Judgment. Before you agree to a termination or waiver of spousal support, you should consider the entirety of the financial circumstances with your attorney and/or accountant.
Both pendente lite and permanent spousal support orders are modifiable unless the order specifically states it is nonmodifiable.
Can Spousal Support be Modified?
Either spouse (paying or receiving) can seek to modify the spousal support order if there is a change of circumstances. Some examples of change of circumstances include:
- a decrease in the supporting party’s income;
- an increase in the supported party’s income;
- a loss of child support;
- the supported spouse’s refusal to attempt to become self-supporting within a reasonable time; or
- cohabitation by the supported party.
Sometimes one spouse may purposefully become underemployed or unemployed in order to avoid the financial responsibility of or maintain the financial benefit of spousal support. If this occurs and the party seeks a modification of the spousal support order, it will be important to complete an analysis on this aspect to show the Court that the party has acted in bad faith and is purposefully attempting to manipulate the situation. This can be done by either having a vocational evaluation completed or by subpoenaing employment records to determine the basis for the reduction in income or unemployment.
As of January 1, 2019, spousal support is no longer federally tax-deductible for the paying spouse nor is it federally taxable to the receiving spouse. This change in the federal law resulted in spousal support orders being reduced slightly to compensate for the lack of a tax benefit for the paying spouse and for the fact that the receiving spouse’s support will go much further without having to pay federal taxes.
Lastly, obtaining a support order is great, but sometimes you face difficulty in receiving payment for the support order. If you find yourself in that situation you may need to seek to enforce your orders.
Can Spousal Support be Enforced if my Ex-Spouse Refuses to Pay?
If your spouse fails to pay the decided upon spousal support or pays less than the required amount, our lawyers can help you to pursue legal action to enforce the payments. You do not deserve to suffer financial hardship because your ex-spouse refuses to pay what they are obligated to pay you. Contact one of our family law attorneys today to help you with this process.
Please contact Moore Law for Children to schedule a consultation to discuss your goals and strategies regarding your spousal support needs and concerns.