Will I Have to Pay Alimony on Top Of Child Support In California?

Even in the best of circumstances, divorce creates financial challenges because you are splitting one household into two and doubling expenses. In addition to dividing assets including your retirement savings, you may also be obligated to pay substantial amounts for child support. Do you then have to pay alimony on top of all that?

The answer depends on the circumstances. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to protect your financial interests during and after the divorce.

Do You Have a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?

You cannot specify terms in advance regarding obligations for child support, but you can make arrangements regarding the potential for alimony. If you and your spouse executed a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, then the terms of that agreement override the provisions of California law regarding alimony. So the first issue to consider regarding alimony is whether you have an agreement that specifies whether a spouse will pay and if so how much and for how long.

Child Custody and Support are Usually Determined First

Even if one spouse requests alimony right away, courts recognize that spousal and child support are interconnected because they both impact needs and ability to pay. Generally, courts will determine custody first because the amount of time the child spends with each parent affects support amounts. When a child spends equal time with both parents, the parent with greater income may still be required to pay support but it will not be as much as if that parent only had the child with them every other weekend. At the same time, if one parent is spending much more time raising the child, that can make it difficult to earn as much. So custody impacts child support and can impact alimony as well.

Once custody is established, then child support will be calculated based on a formula that takes each spouse’s income into account, as well as a variety of other factors. Then decisions about alimony are based on the consideration of the paying spouse’s income after child support amounts are taken out.

Alimony is Not an Automatic Obligation Like Child Support

Both parents are obligated by California law to support their children financially, so child support is an automatic obligation. Support for a former spouse, on the other hand, is not automatic. If a spouse wants to receive alimony, they must ask for it and show the court why it is justified (unless parties reach their own agreement out of court.) This includes showing why they need support and how the other spouse has the ability to pay support. Generally, the longer a marriage lasted, the more likely it is that one spouse focused on home and family while the other spouse focused on career, which leaves one spouse much better prepared to be self-supporting. In that case, alimony is more likely to be awarded to give the lower-earning spouse time to develop career skills and build earning potential.

If both spouses have relatively equal earning potential and are spending the same amount of time caring for their children, then the court may be less likely to award spousal support. It is important to ensure that your attorney presents persuasive evidence to support your position regarding alimony. If paying alimony would make it difficult for you to provide a home for your children, be sure your attorney understands why and that they are prepared to demonstrate this to the court.

Factors That Impact Alimony in California

Courts consider many factors when determining whether one spouse should pay alimony, and how much and for what length of time. The recipient spouse’s need for support and the paying spouse’s ability to provide support are two of the most important factors. This involves considering each spouse’s earning capacity and special needs, such as medical issues or the fact that their ability to work is limited by the need to care for their children. Other factors include the age and health of each spouse, the length of the marriage, the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage, the amount of debt and assets held by each spouse, any history of abuse during the marriage, and how the time spent caring for children impacted the career of either spouse.

Work with an Attorney Who Knows How to Protect Your Financial Interests in a California Divorce

The question of whether you will need to pay alimony in addition to child support depends on your circumstances as presented to the court or the arrangements you negotiate out of court. Having experienced legal guidance can make all the difference in the outcome. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we put 300+ years of collective experience to work for you to help you achieve the most beneficial outcome in your divorce, including advantageous arrangements regarding spousal support. Contact us today for a confidential consultation to find out how we can protect your interests. 

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