California courts won’t force anyone to continue working beyond retirement age to pay alimony. That said, your obligations won’t automatically end when you stop working.
If you are eligible to retire, you must petition the court to end your required alimony payments in California or risk a contempt of court charge. Terminating payments without court permission in Pasadena could land you in jail. That’s not how you would like to begin your golden years.
In addition to retirement, there are other conditions that may warrant ending or reducing alimony:
- A decrease in your income that is out of your control
- Your former spouse has increased their income
- Your former spouse has remarried
- Either spouse dies
Notice that the decrease in income must be out of your control. If you quit being a dentist to teach surfing, you will probably still be responsible for the same alimony payment despite the probable drop in pay.
Arguing your case before the court is one way to modify alimony. If you and your former spouse agree to the change, a written contract is drafted and presented to the judge. Unless there is some issue of unfairness, the judge will generally turn the agreement into an official court order.
A non-terminable agreement cannot be dissolved until its designated end date.
Two Types of Spousal Support
California law refers to alimony as spousal support. There are two kinds – temporary and long-term. No one is guaranteed either. Alimony is gender-neutral.
Temporary spousal support can be requested by either spouse as soon as the family law case is filed. The purpose of the support is to help a spouse meet monthly expenses during the process of divorce. A judge looks at both the needs of the spouse with less money and the ability to pay for the spouse with more financial resources.
Most courts use a formula as a starting point to determine the temporary spousal support award. In the calculation, 40% of the higher earner’s net monthly income minus 50% of the lower earner’s net monthly income. Being awarded temporary alimony does not guarantee a post-divorce award.
Long-term spousal support helps a former spouse meet their needs after the divorce becomes final. The length of the marriage impacts how long support can potentially last. For marriages less than 10 years, support will last about half of the length of the marriage. When a marriage lasts more than 10 years, the union is “of long duration.” The courts have considerable flexibility in determining what constitutes a reasonable divorce award.
Long-term alimony, sometimes called permanent spousal support, is rarely awarded for the lifetime of one of the spouses. The most likely scenario is a long-term marriage where one spouse has significantly more income while the other spouse has limited to no career prospects.
Alimony in Divorce Litigation
When spouses cannot come to an agreement about spousal support, the issue can be decided in the courtroom.
The judge will evaluate a list of factors including the following:
- The marketable skills of the supported spouse
- The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire education or develop skills for potential employment
- The extent to which the supported spouse did not work or was underemployed so they could devote their time to the home and family
- The level to which the supported spouse contributed toward the paying spouse’s education or career
- The paying spouse's ability to pay alimony
- The standard of living established in the marriage
- The assets and debt obligations of both spouses
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of spouses
- The tax consequences for each spouse
Except in certain circumstances, the goal of alimony is for the spouse to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.
Alimony in Divorce Negotiation
Spousal support does not have to be decided in court. If you and your spouse agree about support, the terms can be written into the agreement, signed by a judge, and made part of the final orders in your case. Modifications to an existing spousal order can be completed similarly.
Even when spouses agree, using a skilled attorney is important to ensure all divorce terms are completed correctly with less chance of creating new issues down the road.
Don’t Pay Alimony Longer than Necessary
At Gille Kaye Law Group, PC, we focus only on family law. This legal concentration coupled with our Certified Family Law Specialist means our clients benefit from experience and knowledge not found at many other law firms.
Our background includes representing clients who are fighting against paying unnecessary alimony as well as those who need the support. Being able to see the case from both sides provides us with insight to help our client.
Our team can help you navigate through alimony and all other aspects of your divorce. We are impressive negotiators and formidable litigators who you can trust to serve your best interests inside and outside the courtroom.
If you believe you have grounds to stop or reduce what you pay in alimony, contact us. We can quickly ascertain whether you might have a case. Request a confidential consultation online or call (626) 340-0955.