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How Courts Make Alimony Determinations in Divorce Cases

Tue 30th Nov, 2021 Blogs

Divorce can wreak havoc on the former spouses’ personal finances, especially if one of the spouses left the labor force during the marriage. To mitigate some of those financial shocks, courts may award alimony — an amount of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse for his or her support after the marriage. Alimony (also referred to as “spousal support”) is one of the most hotly contested issues in many divorce cases, as there are often disputes over whether alimony should be awarded, how much should be awarded, and how long the payments should continue. With such a high potential for conflict, you should consider speaking to a Stockton divorce attorney before beginning alimony negotiations. 

Temporary Alimony Calculations

When one spouse files for divorce, either spouse may petition the court for temporary alimony to assist with personal expenses while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. Generally, if there is a significant income disparity between the two spouses, the court will order the higher-income spouse to pay temporary alimony to the lower-income spouse. Temporary alimony decisions typically need to be made quickly, so courts use a standard formula to calculate the amount that the payor spouse must pay to the payee spouse. San Joaquin County, which includes Stockton, uses the Santa Clara County formula for temporary alimony. 

Permanent Alimony Calculations

Permanent alimony, or “long-term support,” is a regular and ongoing alimony payment from the payor spouse to the payee spouse after the divorce is finalized. The purpose of permanent alimony is to allow the lower-income spouse to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. Family law courts have quite a bit of discretion when determining the proper amount of permanent alimony, but they take the following factors into consideration: 

  • The length of the marriage
  • The marketable skills of the supported party
  • The supported party’s future earning capacity
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support
  • The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage
  • The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the party’s custody
  • The age and health of the parties
  • Evidence of domestic violence between the parties 

Despite its name, permanent alimony payments eventually end, but the duration of the payments also depends upon the facts of the case. Generally, alimony for short-term marriages (those less than 10 years in duration) is payable for half the duration of the marriage. Alimony for long-term marriages (those 10 or more years in duration) can be payable for a considerably longer period of time. In either case, alimony obligations end upon either party’s death or the remarriage of the supported party. 

Contact a Stockton Divorce Attorney for Help with Alimony Issues

Alimony fights can be acrimonious, not to mention potentially expensive for the payor spouse. To increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome, please contact a Stockton divorce attorney at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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