How Do You Petition for Alimony During a Divorce Process?

At one time, alimony was an automatic part of divorce, but that is no longer the case. If you want to receive alimony, you need to be prepared to show why support payments are justified under the law based on your specific circumstances.

How do you do that? The easiest way to start is to work with an experienced family law attorney who understands the factors courts find persuasive in alimony determinations. While the process of petitioning for alimony will differ according to your situation, here are some general guidelines that apply when seeking alimony in California.

Consider the Divorce Process You are Using

If you are divorcing through mediation or the collaborative process, the method of requesting and demonstrating a need for alimony will be different than if you are engaging in litigation. In collaborative divorce, for instance, your attorney will be negotiating for alimony. If alimony is included in your divorce settlement, it will become an enforceable court order once the divorce is finalized, just as if the judge had ordered it in litigation.

Regardless of your divorce process, you will need to be ready to demonstrate justification for alimony and have legal arguments to support the amount and duration of payments you are seeking.

Petitioning for Temporary Alimony in California

Although the term alimony is still commonly used, California officially uses the term spousal support. This type of support is available not only during and after a divorce but also after a legal separation or in situations where a restraining order is in place in a domestic violence case.

If you have financial needs while the divorce is in progress, you can ask the court for temporary spousal support as soon as the family law case is filed in court. Spouses may agree on an arrangement for temporary support, or if they cannot agree, the judge will decide, often based on a math formula. In many cases, judges will establish an amount that is equal to 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s income minus 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s income. Or the court might look at the net monthly income and expenses of the spouse requesting support, determine the shortfall, and award that amount if the other spouse has the apparent ability to pay it.

To start the process, a spouse would file a Request for Order form explaining what the desired payments should be and why the amount is justified. It will be necessary to describe facts that support the request. In addition, a requesting spouse will need to submit an Income and Expense Declaration with supporting documentation. It can be very helpful to have an attorney assist with the process.

Requesting for Long-Term Support

The process of obtaining long-term support to be paid after the divorce is finalized can be much more complicated, particularly in situations where a marriage lasted more than ten years. Courts are required to consider a great number of factors when determining whether to award support, and the amount and duration of support. That means the spouse requesting alimony will need to submit a large quantity of information backed by appropriate documentation.

This information includes data about:

  • The applicant’s marketable skills and data on the job market for those skills
  • The amount of time and money required to develop current skills or acquire other marketable skills
  • The extent to which the applicant’s earning capacity is reduced by periods of unemployment while the applicant focused on home life
  • How the need to care for dependent children impacts employment ability of the applicant
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Debts, ongoing obligations, and assets of each spouse
  • Contributions the applicant made to the education and career of the other spouse
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage

A spouse seeking support should be prepared with information regarding each of the statutory factors described in Section 4320 of the California Family Code, as well as any additional evidence that explains the need for alimony.

Regardless of whether your divorce is handled through litigation, mediation, or collaborative divorce, you and your spouse can reach an agreement out of court regarding alimony. If the judge approves your arrangement, then it will be incorporated into the divorce decree as an enforceable court order.

If you do not come to an agreement, you will need to include alimony as one of the issues you are asking the court to decide in a trial. It is a good idea to work with an experienced attorney if you are engaging in litigation to settle terms of your divorce.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Meet Your Objectives for Alimony

Alimony can form an essential component of your efforts to build a new life and move forward during and after a divorce. An issue of this importance and complexity deserves skilled legal attention.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, our experienced attorneys offer the benefit of 300 years of collective experience helping clients gain advantageous terms for alimony and other aspects of their divorces. Schedule a consultation with our team to learn how we can help you receive the support you deserve.

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