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SPOUSAL SUPPORT (ALIMONY) IN CALIFORNIA–HOW IS IT CALCULATED?

Dear readers and clients:

Those of you who know me know how much I love the institution of marriage. But as a contract, marriage has serious flaws, one of them being the ongoing duty of spouses to financially support one another, a duty that continues even after one party unilaterally decides to dissolve the marriage.

How about that? Marriage is a contract between 2 people to love, honor and support one another, a contract stipulating that all property acquired by either party belongs half to the other party, and a contract where the breaching party can actually sue the non-breaching party and obtain a lifetime stream of income. There’s no other contract quite like it in Anglo-American jurisprudence.

Yet spousal support is a reality, and one that every “moneyed spouse” must deal with in the process of a California divorce. By “moneyed spouse,” I mean the one who dragged his or her butt to work every day to allow the other spouse to raise the family, care for the home, work part-time or have a home-based business that doesn’t necessarily have to make money. Most moneyed gals (or guys) are tempted to scream out my least favorite 3 words that I hear in mediation: “that’s not fair.”

To the non-moneyed spouse, a support award does seem fair–after all, she (or he) changed diapers, wiped snotty noses and got the kids ready for school every day for 10 years. He (or she) stayed home doing the dirty jobs while you, moneyed spouse, got the glory and fulfillment of the work world. And, Mr. (or Ms.) moneyed spouse has emerged from this marriage with something something she (or he) never got the chance to develop: earning capacity.

This basic division of labor in marriage forms the basis for spousal suport awards (in California we refer to it as “spousal support,” not “alimony”). Spousal support awards grow out of the duty of married people to financially support one another during the marriage, and are meant to provide non-moneyed spouse the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. With that provision comes the duty of the supported spouse to become self-supporting “within a reasonable period of time.”

To help you get your mind around the concept of spousal support, and to figure out whether you owe it, or perhaps are entitled to it in the divorce, and how much, you should begin by dowloading an excellent form provided by the San Diego County branch of the Superior Court. This is the SC-242, also known as the Spousal Support Factors Attachment.

Download this form and fill it out, and then look for my next blog in the spoual support/alimony series. This series will explain how the courts view spousal support and how much you should expect to pay or receive.

Until then, I remain …

Very truly yours,

Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.

Disclaimer: Thomas D. Ferreira is an attorney licensed only in the State of California. The information set forth in this blog or on our websites are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor are they intended as legal advice on your specific matter. This information is not intended to apply to cases or jurisdictions outside the State of California, and those viewing this information outside of California, or having business before jurisdictions outside of California, should consult a local professional or lawyer. The information in this blog is not a substitute for the advice of competent counsel, and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the results of your legal matter.

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  1. […] spouses, and hence their ability to support themselves.  Spousal support is complex, and for a discussion of how it’s calculated, see my blog series on that […]

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