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January 14, 2019
Non-working spouses can seek spousal support in California

Money and financial obligations to your spouse are often major points of contention in a divorce. You and your spouse likely don’t agree about what is fair for both of you when you try to find terms for ending your marriage.

Issues like spousal support, previously called alimony, are often hotly contested by both spouses. California does still order spousal support in divorces, but they handle it differently than they used to. Dependent spouses may have a claim for support, but, in most cases, they will not receive spousal support indefinitely.

Emotions often run high when it comes to spousal support

A wage-earning spouse may feel like they should not have to pay to support a non-working partner anymore, especially because the marriage is over. They may want to fight any request for support, no matter the terms. While it’s not always possible to block requests for spousal support, you can still modify them or end them as financial circumstances change after a divorce.

The spouse who stayed at home to care for the family house or raise children may need help to pay for basic life expenses while they develop talents and skills that make them employable. They may feel like they sacrificed important career years toward the household or marriage, which now means they have lower earning potential.

Spousal support is very often a temporary order

While child support could last for almost two decades, depending on the age of the child at the time of the order, spousal support rarely lasts more than a few years. Barring situations where something extreme has happened, such as one spouse suffering a medical event that makes them unable to work, the courts expect both adults from a marriage to take steps to support themselves.

Being out of the workforce to care for the home or children can mean losing earning potential. Stay-at-home spouses often have to take entry-level jobs, even if they have previous work experience or a degree.

Supporting yourself on minimum wage isn’t easy or even feasible, depending on the community in which you live. Spousal support helps these non-working spouses bridge the gap between what they make and what they need to live on while they take classes or gain career experience that can help them seek better-paying work.

Rules on spousal support taxation have changed

There used to be relatively generous rules regarding how the federal government taxed the income used to pay spousal support. Those rules have shifted in recent years, which could have implications on the cost of spousal support.

Whether you already receive or pay spousal support or are going through a divorce where spousal support may wind up part of the final order, it’s important to understand your rights and the current laws. For more information on the shifting tax burden related to spousal support, as well as how the courts will likely handle spousal support requests in your situation, a discussion with a family law attorney may be in your best interest.

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