California has both temporary and post-judgment spousal support. Temporary spousal support is usually ordered by the court or agreed upon by the parties shortly after the date of separation. The purpose of temporary support is to maintain the status quo and permit the party’s take the time to reorganize their financial lives. If one spouse has not been working, he or she may need time to either get training or get a job.
Post-Judgment Spousal Support
When the parties negotiate a complete resolution of their family law issues, or a court hears their case, whether or not a spouse needs some post-judgment support is considered. If a marriage is less than 10 years old, it may be treated as a marriage of short duration. A spouse who has been married for less than 10 years may only receive spousal support for a period of half the length of the marriage, unless he or she is disabled or has other reasons why support should be for a longer period.
If a spouse has been married for longer than 10 years, they may have a right to life-time support. However, if the supported spouse has been out of the labor market for a period of time, they are expected to obtain training so they can get a job. While there are more than 10 factors, which are considered when addressing the issue of post-judgment support, a supported spouse would be mistaken if he or she thinks that they will not be expected to work. If one spouse had earnings, which are much higher than the supported spouse can earn even after getting a paying position, some spousal support may still be paid. Again, this is a matter for negotiation.
When a spouse is self-employed or owns a company, it may be necessary to retain the services of a forensic accountant to assist in determining their actual earnings. A spouse may chose to continue to operate his or her own business, but not at the expense of the children or the other spouse. For example, if a salaried individual with the skills of that spouse would earn $120,000 and they earn less than that amount operating his/her own business, continuing may not be permitted, particularly where there are children.
In addition, if a spouse receives income-producing assets in a property division during a dissolution action, the court can also consider the income from these assets. A spouse cannot invest his or her assets in non-income producing items, with the possible exception of purchasing a replacement residence.
The income tax consequences of spousal support affect the net amount received by the supported spouse. Spousal support is usually taxable as income to the recipient, and is deductible to the payer. Nontaxable spousal support can occur in negotiated settlements. Because spousal support involves as many different factors as child support, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney. Ronda A. Middleton can help.