When a couple divorces, there is a high likelihood that one party may receive a court order to provide spousal support, or alimony, for the other spouse. However, alimony is not a monolithic thing, but rather a broad term that refers to a number of different arrangements a judge may order depending on the circumstances of a divorce.
If you anticipate your divorce may mean that you have to pay spousal support, it is wise to understand the various kinds of alimony you might encounter.
Of course, even in a community property state like California, everything is negotiable with experienced legal counsel. An attorney can help ensure that your rights remain secure as you navigate the complicated terrain of California divorce, from property division and alimony to child support and custody issues.
Many types of spousal support
When we use the word "alimony," many of us envision a scenario wherein one spouse sends a monthly stipend to the other indefinitely. This type of arrangement is known as permanent alimony, and may come into play when the couple divorces after many years together. However, one could seek to amend a permanent alimony order if either party experiences a significant change in circumstances.
For instance, if the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with another partner, or their financial circumstances improve significantly, a court may amend or dissolve the order. Likewise, if the paying spouse falls on hard times and finds it difficult to make the assigned payments, a court may amend the order to make it more bearable.
Often, when a divorce is in process, a court may order temporary alimony to help the receiving spouse make ends meet and pay legal fees during the divorce process. In many cases, courts assign temporary alimony while determining fair terms for permanent alimony.
In contrast, several types of alimony are not ongoing orders, but have set duration terms. If one spouse needs help to re-enter the workforce or simply some help while job searching after a divorce, a court may order rehabilitative alimony. In these cases, the paying spouse is not on the hook indefinitely, only until the receiving spouse finishes the training outlined in the order, or until he or she obtains proper employment.
If one spouse receives rehabilitative support, the court often requires that spouse to repay the support after achieving certain goals, like finishing training or obtaining a job that supports them. Under reimbursement alimony, the spouse who received help to get beck on their feet repays some or all of the alimony they received to the spouse who originally paid it to them. Courts generally use this type of alimony for a more fair long-term solution for both spouses.
Finally, many spouses with the means to do so may prefer to make a one-time lump-sum payment rather than ongoing payments. Often, this is preferable because it allows more room for negotiation about the actual dollar figures, and keeps the paying spouse from enduring an ongoing connection to his or her former spouse.
Don't wait to begin building your divorce strategy
Even if you anticipate an amicable divorce, it is always wise to enlist the guidance of an experienced attorney to keep your rights secure as you walk through this difficult season.