Spousal Support Legal Services

The Law Office of Anton L. Georghiou has extensive experience in divorce and spousal support (also known as alimony). You can learn more about spousal support below.

What is Spousal Support (Alimony)?

California Spousal Support, otherwise known as Alimony, is money paid by a husband or wife to the other spouse as part of a temporary and permanent order of the court. California law does not provide for common law marriage, therefore the only way to have spousal support awarded or to have it at issue in a proceeding is in a divorce (dissolution of marriage) case.

Long-Term Versus Short-Term Spousal Support

Some popular misconceptions relating to spousal support is the 10-year long term versus short term spousal support orders. Having a marriage that is over 10 years makes the marriage defined as long term with the courts, however it does not automatically entitle the spouse seeking support to receive support for the rest of his or her life. The courts can and do terminate spousal support in long term marriages. The key difference is that with long term marriages the courts tend to make orders that have no expiration date, meaning that there is no termination of support as part of a final order for support at trial. However, that does not mean that the paying spouse can never seek to adjust or terminate support, it is possible to do, provided there is a showing of a change in circumstances sufficient for the court to modify the order. In short term marriages of less than 10 years, it is more typical to have a date upon which support automatically ends. The termination date in such cases is usually half the length of the marriage, so if a marriage was 6 years in length, the support order would usually be for 3 years.

Dividing Assets is Not the Same as Alimony

Another popular misconception is that support is part of the property distribution. It is not. Dividing assets is different and functions on a completely different theory than the issue of alimony, therefore a husband and wife splitting equity in a home or dividing a 401K would not then reduce a need for support by one of the parties. It is only in rare circumstances where the assets divided are generating significant passive income, that the division of assets would impact the support issue.

California Family Code Section 4320

A final popular misconception about spousal support is that it is based on a calculation. It is not. Here it is important to recognize the difference in short term and long term spousal support. Short term or “temporary” spousal support is support ordered as part of a Request For Order (RFO), pending a trial on all the issues in a divorce proceeding. Short term or temporary spousal support is almost always ordered in San Diego County courts using the Dissomaster calculator. Having asked numerous judges at social functions and also having represented hundreds of clients in temporary spousal support motions, I can tell the reader that the court will not budge from the calculated support number unless you show some unusual circumstances that might impact the decision of the court. When I say unusual, I do not mean that the numbers being plugged into the calculator are at issue, which is a different topic of discussion, but rather whether the support should be different from what the calculator indicates. When it comes to long term spousal support, the calculator is not used. The court is generally prohibited from using the calculator, though there is no question that the judges use the calculator as a baseline.

If the court does not use the calculator, then what does the court use? The answer is that the court uses California Family Code §4320, which is the kitchen sink approach to determining support. The key distinction then to long term versus short term spousal support is that the courts use a quantitative approach to short term support and a qualitative one when it comes to long term support. The reader may wonder why this is the case. Although there is nothing within the Family Code, I think we can take a good guess. At trial, long term spousal support can sometimes be litigated for days. I have seen one firm, which will remain unnamed, request 16 days of trial to consider this single issue. The spousal support issue can therefore take up a lot of court resources in a trial. A short term order on the other hand is meant to bridge the gap between the time the requesting spouse needs spousal support following a filing for dissolution of marriage, and the time the court can set longer term support in a trial, the court sets these hearings for just 20 or 40 minutes. Thus, the reason is court efficiency.

Schedule a Free Consultation About Alimony

If you’d like to speak with an experienced San Diego County lawyer about alimony, please contact The Law Office of Anton L. Georghiou for a free initial consultation.