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How Does Alimony Work In California?

If you are planning to get a divorce in California, you’ve probably heard a lot of rumors about alimony. Some people think alimony is old-fashioned and no one pays it anymore. Other people think courts automatically award it if a marriage has lasted a certain period of time. Both of these general assumptions are false—alimony is determined according to the specific facts pertaining to the marriage. That means it is important to ensure that your divorce attorney presents the right facts to justify your goals for alimony.

While we cannot give you cut and dried rules about how alimony is determined, we can explain how decisions are made in California.

A Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement Can Determine Everything

California laws establish some expectations and factors for courts to consider when making decisions about whether to award alimony and how much to award, but the default provisions of the law only come into play when the couple has not created their own binding agreement regarding alimony. If you and your spouse executed a prenuptial agreement before you got married or you entered into a valid agreement during your marriage, the terms in that agreement will control the outcome. 

These agreements must meet certain legal requirements to be valid, so if you did not consult an attorney before signing and you think the agreement might not be valid, it is a good idea to discuss this with your divorce attorney as soon as possible. Among other requirements, you must either have received and provided full disclosure about financial issues before signing, or you must have specifically waived the disclosure requirement.

Couples Can Make Their Own Decisions About Alimony

If you did not prepare a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you and your soon-to-be former spouse still have the ability to make your own determinations about alimony. The difficulty is that you need to reach agreement on whether one spouse will pay, how much they will pay, and how long payments will be expected to continue. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a reasonable arrangement with your spouse’s attorney. When that happens, the court is likely to approve whatever terms you have established, unless one party has acted improperly in some way. Of course, before you start negotiating your own terms, you would probably find it helpful to know what the law considers relevant to the decision.

California Law Refers to Alimony as Spousal Support

To understand the provisions of California law regarding alimony, you need to know that the courts use the term “spousal support” and they can award two main types of support. Courts often order temporary spousal support to help a spouse while the divorce proceedings are in progress. In some counties, courts do use a formula to establish an amount, but that can be adjusted.

Alimony payments that are made after the divorce is finalized are considered long-term spousal support. In a divorce decree, the court can go one of three ways with regard to alimony. The court can order support, it can deny support now but retain the right to order support later, or the court can terminate the issue and end its ability to order alimony.

Factors That Affect Alimony Decisions

Support is designed to give a spouse who earns less money a reasonable amount of time to become self-supporting. The longer a couple has been married, the more likely it is that one spouse has stayed out of the workforce to focus on home for a longer period of time, so that spouse will need more time to redevelop their earning potential. For that reason the length of a marriage is one of the key factors affecting alimony determinations. 

If a spouse demonstrates that they have a need for support and the other spouse has the ability to pay support, then if they were married for less than ten years, California law assumes that it would be reasonable to order alimony payments to continue for half the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted more than ten years, it is considered a long-term marriage, and there is no assumption about how long alimony should continue.

In addition to considering a how long a couple has been married and the receiving spouse’s need and paying spouse’s ability to make payments, courts are also supposed to consider:

  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Current income and potential earning capacity of each spouse
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Property and debts of each spouse
  • Any history of abuse
  • Whether one spouse helped the other further their training or education
  • The impact of childcare on both spouse’s careers

When a court orders alimony payments, those payments are expected to continue until the date specified in the order or agreement, or until one spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries. If a receiving spouse is living with a new partner, the paying spouse can ask the court to modify or terminate alimony.

Holstrom, Block & Parke APLC Can Help You Secure the Right Alimony Arrangements

If you are interested in seeking alimony or you believe your spouse will request alimony, it is a good idea to begin working with an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible to start gathering evidence to help you achieve the right balance in the decision. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates understand the most effective strategies to protect your interests in all types of divorce situations. To learn more about the protection we can provide, schedule a consultation with our team today. 

How Much is Alimony in California?

Alimony—which is officially referred to in California as spousal support—is often awarded when spouses have been married for a considerable time and one spouse earns substantially less than the other. Whether you will be paying alimony or are seeking alimony to maintain your home and living situation, it is natural to wonder how much support courts typically award.

Couples can set their own terms for alimony, either in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or during negotiations in preparation for divorce. As long as both spouses follow the rules regarding disclosure, their agreement is likely to be approved by the court.

If you want to set your own terms, of course, it is helpful to understand what the default standard would be. So in this post, we explore the factors that go into setting alimony amounts in California.

Is There a Formula for Calculating Alimony?

While some courts use a formula for calculating temporary alimony, the approach to calculating long-term alimony is much more nuanced and subjective. Temporary alimony is paid to a spouse to provide support while the divorce proceedings are in progress. So, depending on the county where you file for divorce, the court may apply a formula to calculate support obligations while the divorce is in progress. A common starting point is to take 40% of the paying spouse’s net monthly income and reduce that by 50% of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

When a court is setting an amount of alimony to be paid after the divorce is finalized, the process is much more intricate.

Courts Must Consider a List of Factors

Section 4320 of the California Family Code sets forth a list of issues the court is required to consider when determining whether one spouse should pay support, how much support amounts should be, and how long support payments should be required. While there is some legal guidance regarding what each factor involves, there is no specific rule about whether certain factors are more important or how much weight should be given to each factor. Judges have considerable discretion to make decisions so long as they take the factors into consideration. This means it is important to work with an attorney who is prepared to present persuasive arguments in favor of your goals when it comes to alimony.

Understanding the Factors that Affect Alimony Decisions

Factors that impact the determination of alimony amounts include:

  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage. This includes types of cars driven, vacations taken, and homes lived in.
  • The degree to which each partner earns enough to keep up the same standard of living that they enjoyed while married.
  • The assets held by each spouse and whether they are extensive enough to make support unnecessary.
  • The marketable skills of the spouse receiving alimony. Do they have skills or certification? Is there a job market for those skills? Does the spouse need additional training or education to find a job?
  • How greatly was the career of the receiving spouse damaged by time spent out of the workforce to care for the home?
  • Whether one spouse supported the other during education or career training.
  • Whether the spouse who will be paying support has enough income to pay support.
  • The needs of each party. In this instance, “needs” goes beyond basic necessities to include other factors involved in the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.
  • The age and health of each spouse.
  • Whether the spouse requesting support has limited ability to work due to the need to care for minor children.
  • Any history of domestic violence.

In addition to these and other issues, the court can also consider “any other factors” that the judge finds to be relevant. It is wise to work with an attorney who can present evidence regarding these factors in favorable light and who is also prepared to raise additional issues that support your goals for alimony.

Skilled Advocacy Can Make a Significant Difference in an Alimony Determination

Because the amount of alimony rests with the discretion of the judge, it is wise to work with an experienced and dedicated legal advocate when you are seeking alimony or being asked to pay support. In negotiations, a knowledgeable attorney from Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can argue for your objectives based on legal precedent to help you achieve an agreement without the need to incur additional court costs. If the issue cannot be resolved out of court, our team knows how to ensure that all the factors in your favor are presented persuasively to the judge.

To learn more about the ways we can assist with alimony or other divorce issues, just schedule a confidential consultation.  

How Is Alimony Calculated In California?

Going through a divorce can raise many questions, especially regarding finances. One topic that frequently comes up is alimony, also known as spousal support.  Although the outcome often depends on how well your attorney presents the factors that weigh in your favor, this post will give you a general overview of how courts calculate alimony in California.

Fair Share in California

Unlike some states, California follows a community property system. This means most assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned. This also applies to income earned during the marriage. Regarding alimony, California courts focus on two main factors: the need of one spouse for financial support and the ability of the other spouse to pay.

Temporary vs. Permanent Support

There are two main types of alimony in California: temporary and permanent. Temporary support, sometimes called interim support, is designed to help maintain the marital lifestyle during divorce. It's typically calculated using a formula considering each spouse's net monthly income. Generally, the higher-earning spouse pays a percentage of their income (around 40%) minus half of the lower-earning spouse's income. However, this is just a starting point, and the judge can adjust it based on other factors like child support or living expenses.

Permanent alimony is less common and is awarded in longer marriages or situations where one spouse cannot become self-supporting due to factors like disability or caring for children for an extended period. There's no set formula for permanent support, and the court considers several factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and each spouse's earning capacity and needs.

Beyond the Formula

While the need and ability assessment provides a starting point, California courts weigh several other factors when determining alimony.  These include:

  • The duration of the marriage: Longer marriages are more likely to result in permanent alimony, as one spouse may have given up career opportunities to support the other.
  • The age and health of each spouse: A younger, healthy spouse may have a better chance of finding employment than an older spouse with health limitations.
  • The earning capacity of each spouse: The court will consider each spouse’s education, training, and current employment situation to determine their potential for future earnings.
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage: The court aims to maintain a similar standard for both spouses as long as it's reasonable considering the new circumstances.
  • Whether there are minor children in the home: If one spouse is the primary caregiver, they may need alimony to cover childcare costs and maintain a stable environment for the children.
  • Contributions of each spouse to the education or career of the other spouse: A spouse who provided support for the other spouse's education or career advancement might be awarded alimony in recognition of their contribution.

The Emotional Impact

Divorce can be emotionally draining, and financial concerns can add to the stress.  Alimony can provide stability during this difficult time, allowing one spouse to adjust to their new reality.  However, it's important to remember that alimony is not intended to punish the higher-earning spouse. It's about achieving a fair and equitable outcome based on the specific circumstances of your marriage.

Your California Alimony Advocate

California alimony laws can be complex, and the outcome can significantly impact your financial future. If you're facing divorce and have questions about spousal support, the experienced divorce attorneys at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, can help. We understand the emotional and financial challenges of divorce and will work with you to achieve a fair outcome in your case.

Here's what we can do for you:

  • Review your financial situation: We'll analyze your income, expenses, assets, and debts to understand your financial needs and abilities.
  • Explain your options: We'll discuss the different types of alimony available in California and how they might apply to your situation.
  • Negotiate on your behalf: We'll advocate for your interests during negotiations with your spouse or their attorney.
  • We will represent you in court: If necessary, we will present your case to the judge, ensuring that the court sees the best evidence to support your goals for alimony.

Worried About Alimony? We Can Help

California alimony laws can be complex. If you're facing divorce and have questions about spousal support, the experienced divorce attorneys at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can help. We understand the emotional and financial challenges of divorce and will work with you to achieve a fair outcome in your case. Contact us today at 855-426-9111 or online to schedule a consultation.

Can I Get Alimony After 2 Years Of Marriage in California?

People getting divorced in California after a relatively short marriage often wonder whether alimony is ever awarded in this type of situation. For instance, can a spouse get alimony after only two years of marriage?

It's a valid concern, especially for spouses who may have put their careers on hold. A two-year interruption in a career can take years to make up. So, while the answer generally depends on several factors, it is certainly possible for a court to award alimony after a two-year marriage. But whether you are seeking alimony or believe alimony is inappropriate in your situation, it is important for your divorce attorney to ensure that the court has access to all the evidence that supports your position.

Understanding Alimony in California

Alimony, officially called spousal support in California, refers to a financial arrangement where one spouse is required to provide financial assistance to the other following a divorce. The overarching goal of alimony is to mitigate the economic impact of divorce on the lower-earning spouse, allowing them to adjust financially over time without a drastic drop in their standard of living. The earning-disparity between spouses often becomes greater the longer a couple has been married, but it can be a significant issue for shorter marriages as well.

For marriages of short duration, typically defined as less than ten years in California, there is no automatic entitlement, alimony can still be awarded based on a thorough evaluation of both parties' needs and financial capabilities. In the case of a two-year marriage, factors such as the contributions made by each spouse to the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the marriage are meticulously assessed.

Determining Alimony in Short Marriages

It is important to present evidence to show why an award of support is justified. This includes covering issues such as:

  • Economic Dependency: If one spouse significantly depends economically on the other due to the marriage, this dependency will be a critical factor in the alimony determination.
  • Earning Capacities: The court examines the current and potential future earning capacities of both spouses, considering any sacrifices one spouse made for the other's career advancement or for the family's benefit.
  • Standard of Living: The lifestyle the couple maintained during their marriage serves as a benchmark for determining the need for support with a goal of enabling both parties to maintain a reasonably similar standard of living post-divorce.

It’s important to note that alimony arrangements are not set in stone. They can be modified based on significant changes in circumstances such as a substantial increase in the recipient’s income or decrease in the payor's income, cohabitation of the receiving spouse with a new partner, retirement of the paying spouse, or other relevant changes. It is important to work with an attorney to ask the court to approve a change in alimony before making it, however, because alimony obligations are set by court order.

Short-Term Marriages and Alimony

In California, the length of the marriage is a significant factor in determining alimony. For marriages considered "short-term," generally less than ten years, the rule of thumb is that support may be granted for half the length of the marriage. Therefore, after a two-year marriage, you could be eligible for alimony for one year. However, this is not a guarantee and depends on other circumstances as well.

Factors Influencing Alimony Awards

Several factors can influence whether alimony is awarded in short-term marriages:

  • Financial Need and Ability to Pay: The court will assess the financial need of the requesting spouse and the other spouse's ability to pay. This includes examining both parties' current income, living expenses, and future earning potential.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: The lifestyle you and your spouse maintained while married sets a benchmark. If one spouse cannot meet this standard independently due to the divorce, alimony may be considered.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: This includes not only financial contributions but also non-monetary contributions, such as homemaking or supporting the other spouse's career.
  • Employment Impact: If one spouse's earning capacity was affected by unemployment or underemployment due to domestic responsibilities, this could justify an alimony award.

Navigating Your Alimony Request

Given the complexities surrounding alimony, particularly after a short marriage, it's crucial to have skilled legal representation. An experienced attorney can help you present a strong case for alimony by:

  • Gathering and presenting evidence of financial need and the other spouse's ability to pay
  • Demonstrating how the marriage affected your earning capacity
  • Arguing for a fair consideration of the standard of living established during the marriage

Whether or not alimony is awarded, planning for your financial independence after a short marriage is essential. This might mean reassessing your career goals, updating your skills, or furthering your education. Remember, alimony is viewed as a bridge to financial self-sufficiency, not a permanent solution.

Contact Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC

If you're going through a divorce in California and wondering about your eligibility for alimony after a short marriage, we're here to help. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we understand the unique challenges you're facing and are ready to advocate effectively to help you reach your goals. Call us today at 855-426-9111 or online to schedule a consultation. Let's work together to navigate your divorce and secure the best possible outcome for your future.

Alimony After 20 Years Of Marriage In California

When your marriage has lasted for decades, the intense emotional and financial entanglements make the process of divorce much more complex. For those in California who have shared a life with their spouse for 20 years or more, it is only natural to have questions about alimony, which is officially referred to as spousal support. Whether you are the recipient of support payments or under obligation to pay support, the payments can have a tremendous impact on your life for years to come.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we understand the nuances of assessing spousal support obligations at the end of a long-term relationship. While each situation is unique and the issues are based on the specific facts presented, here are some general guidelines to consider.

Long-Term Spousal Support in California

In California, the distinction of a marriage as "long-term" carries significant weight in the realm of alimony considerations. This classification contrasts sharply with the guidelines typically applied to shorter marriages, where spousal support, if awarded, is usually limited to half the marriage's duration.

For those in long-term unions, there is the potential for the court to award support on an indefinite basis. A marriage is considered to be long-term if it lasts ten years or more, so a 20 year marriage definitely qualifies as a long-term relationship. However, there is no guarantee of support in any situation, so it is crucial for a spouse seeking support to show why they need support and how long that support should continue.

The Process of Determining Long-Term Support

To achieve a fair and adequate alimony arrangement, it is important for your attorney to ensure that the court reviews all the factors that weigh in your favor, including:

  • Thorough Financial Analysis: A comprehensive review of both spouses' financial declarations is pivotal. This includes all sources of income, assets, debts, and monthly expenses to accurately gauge the need for support and the ability to pay.
  • Earning capacity of both parties: In a long-term marriage, one spouse has generally focused on building a career while the other spouse puts more energy into home life. After two decades, this leads to a huge disparity in earning capacity. Alimony payments can provide to the lesser-earning spouse while they develop their earning potential.
  • Duration of Support: While "indefinite" support may be a possibility, the actual term can vary greatly. Factors such as the recipient’s efforts towards becoming self-supporting and any mutual agreements made during divorce negotiations play a critical role.

Engaging a knowledgeable attorney who understands the nuances of California alimony laws is crucial. Legal counsel can effectively argue for a fair support arrangement that reflects the marriage's length, the spouses' contributions, and their future financial prospects.

Factors Affecting Alimony in Long-Term Marriages

Several factors come into play when determining alimony after a long marriage:

  • Standard of Living: The lifestyle established during the marriage sets a target for alimony. The goal is to ensure that both parties can maintain a reasonably similar standard of living after the divorce.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: This includes not only financial contributions but also the role of homemaking, raising children, and supporting the spouse's career or education.
  • Financial Resources: The court will examine both parties' current financial resources, including their assets and obligations.
  • Age and Health: The age and health of both spouses are critical considerations, especially in long-term marriages, as they can impact earning capacity and the need for support.

Securing Your Financial Future

After a 20-year marriage, re-entering the workforce or adjusting to living on a single income can be daunting. Alimony is a tool to ease this transition. Here are steps to secure a fair arrangement:

  • Gather Financial Documentation: Start by compiling thorough documentation of your financial situation, including all income, assets, debts, and living expenses.
  • Understand Your Needs: Consider your immediate and future financial needs, including your retirement plans, health care costs, and any retraining or education you may need to become self-sufficient.
  • Consult Professionals: An experienced divorce lawyer can offer invaluable guidance on what to expect and how to negotiate or argue for the support you need. As you move forward, a financial professional can help you establish realistic plans for the future.

Alimony Modifications and Termination

It's important to note that alimony agreements are not set in stone. Changes in circumstances, such as retirement, significant changes in income, or the recipient's remarriage, can warrant a modification or termination of spousal support. Staying informed and proactive about these changes is crucial for both parties involved.

Contact Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC

Divorce after two decades of marriage is more than a legal process–it's a significant life transition. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we approach each case with the compassion, understanding, and experience it deserves. Our goal is to ensure that you are supported legally and emotionally through this time.

If you're facing a divorce after 20 years of marriage in California and have concerns about alimony, let us help. Our team is adept at navigating the complexities of long-term spousal support and is ready to advocate for your needs and rights. Call us today at 855-426-9111 or online to schedule a consultation. Together, we can work towards securing a stable and fair financial future for you.

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.

Can Alimony be Waived in a Prenup or Postnup?

California law can be surprisingly picky when it comes to determining the issues that can and cannot be predetermined in a marital agreement, particularly a postnuptial agreement. So, can spouses establish an agreement specifying that they will not seek alimony during or after a divorce? The answer depends on the circumstances surrounding the creation of the agreement and at the time of divorce.

Did the Spouse Waiving Alimony Receive Advice from Independent Legal Counsel?

Generally, two people can create a prenuptial agreement without the advice or assistance of an attorney. However, Section 1612 of the California Family Code specifies that provisions regarding spousal support—the official term for alimony—are not enforceable if the person who stands to lose from that provision was not represented by independent counsel at the time the agreement was signed. In other words, if the spouse who waived alimony in the agreement did not have their own attorney at the time of signing, then their waiver of alimony is not legally valid.

So, the first step to enable a spouse to waive alimony in pre or postnuptial agreement is to ensure that that spouse has advice from an independent attorney who is not also representing the other spouse.

Is the Alimony Provision in the Prenuptial Agreement Unconscionable as Applied?

The statutory section that requires a spouse to receive independent legal advice before waiving alimony also specifies that a waiver would not be enforceable if it “is unconscionable at the time of enforcement.” What does that mean?

The term “unconscionable” is a somewhat vague yet common legal standard courts use to set aside agreements or change outcomes that a judge finds to be grossly unfair. Sometimes, they describe something as unconscionable if it would “shock the conscience.” Essentially, the court will not uphold something the judge considers to be so unfair that it is simply wrong.

What makes a prenuptial agreement regarding alimony grossly unfair? That would depend on the circumstances presented. In one case, a prenuptial agreement provision that limited a spouse to $6,000 in alimony per month was invalidated as unconscionable. That was based on the fact that at the time of the divorce, the couple enjoyed a lifestyle that would have cost $37,000 a month for that spouse to maintain, and they also had six children. Had the couple enjoyed a more modest lifestyle, an agreement limiting alimony to $6,000 per month might have been considered reasonable, or at least not so unfair as to be invalidated.

With this in mind, even if a spouse is represented by independent counsel, the circumstances at the time of the divorce will determine whether a waiver of alimony will be accepted by the court.

Is the Agreement Enforceable?

For any provision in a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable, the agreement itself must be valid. It must be property signed and notarized, and both parties must have signed voluntarily and not under coercion. In addition, each party must have provided the other with full disclosure of their financial situation, including debts or they must have waived their right to disclosure in writing.

The law specifies that a premarital agreement will only be considered to have been executed voluntarily if the party against whom it is being enforced was represented by an attorney or expressly waived the right to legal counsel. Again, the law places great emphasis on the need for legal advice so that parties understand the rights they are potentially compromising in a prenuptial agreement. Moreover, the law also requires a party to be given at least seven days to consider the terms of the final agreement before signing.

Postnuptial Agreements

When a couple enters into a postnuptial agreement, they are altering the rights and obligations that have already been created by virtue of the marriage. Instead of affecting potential future rights, like a prenuptial agreement, the postnuptial agreement impacts existing rights. For that reason, courts scrutinize these agreements far more closely.

The court may consider waiver of alimony in a postnuptial agreement to be unfair, particularly if one spouse stayed out of the workforce to focus on the home. Courts will also look carefully for any signs of coercion.

Experienced Legal Guidance Helps You Achieve Your Goals for Alimony and Marital Agreements

The bottom line is that while it is possible to waive alimony in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, it can be difficult to enforce a waiver. When you are creating a marital agreement, great care must be taken to follow every requirement and establish terms that are not likely to be viewed as grossly unfair with respect to spousal support.

If you are interested in creating an agreement regarding alimony or you are concerned with the enforceability of a waiver already in existence, you can trust the experienced team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC to protect your interests. Our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates are available to answer your questions—just schedule a consultation to get started.

Is Alimony Taxable in California?

For years, people got used to the idea that alimony was taxable as income and created a tax deduction for the spouse making payments. Then a few years ago, the federal laws changed. But what about California laws? And what about alimony agreements established before the tax laws changed?

State laws differ from federal laws in the way alimony is treated for tax purposes. So here we describe the basics on taxation of alimony in California. If you are creating a plan for alimony as part of a divorce or separation, it is wise to keep tax consequences in mind. The experienced team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can help ensure that you understand tax implications of your situation and help develop a plan that provides a fair allocation of obligations keeping the current tax factors in mind.

Federal Tax Treatment of Alimony

January 2019 was the start of the new rules for taxation of alimony at the federal level. If you are paying or receiving alimony based on a separation agreement or divorce decree executed before 2019, then you continue under the previous rules, meaning that if you receive alimony, it is generally treated as taxable income, and if you pay alimony, it is generally counted as a tax deduction. You can claim this deduction even if you take the standard deduction and do not itemize other deductions.

For alimony paid under the terms of an agreement executed in 2019 or later, alimony is not included in the federal gross income of the recipient and it is not tax deductible for the spouse or partner making payments. Moreover, if you were divorced before 2019 but you modified your divorce or separation agreement in 2019 or later, and your decree includes language indicating that the repeal for the deduction of alimony payments applies to your modification, then the new federal tax treatment applies to your situation as well.

Alimony for Purposes of California Income Tax

The Franchise Tax Board for the State of California does not follow the new federal rules when it comes to alimony. This can make it challenging to calculate state taxes because you may need to adjust your gross income, a figure used to calculate many state tax obligations.

For California income tax, just as with federal income tax for divorce agreements entered into prior to 2019, anyone receiving alimony payments needs to report those payments as income on their state tax return. Those paying alimony to a former spouse or registered domestic partner may be allowed to deduct the payments from income on their California returns.

For purposes of filing state returns in California, if alimony is paid under the terms of a pre-2019 agreement, then tax treatment is consistent with federal treatment, and the income and deductions will be included in the federal adjusted gross income. For alimony paid under the terms set or modified in 2019 or later, California taxpayers will need to make adjustments in Schedule CA to account for alimony payments, either as additional income for recipients or as a deduction for payors.

Account for Tax Treatment of Alimony When Developing Your Separation or Divorce Agreement

When figuring out the alimony, division of assets, and other financial matters involved in a divorce, it is crucial to take tax implications into account. Factor amounts into the calculations to help ensure that a spouse receiving alimony will have enough after taxes to provide resources to meet needs. Remember that a spouse paying support will receive a tax break on the state side of calculations at least, and this can help provide adequate resources to fulfill alimony obligations.

Not All Payments Between Former Spouses Constitute Alimony for Tax Purposes

The IRS has clear rules for determining whether payments constitute alimony. Essentially, payments that are not specifically required by a divorce order or separation agreement are not considered alimony for federal tax purposes. For instance, if a spouse makes payments voluntarily to provide support or payments that are technically part of a spouse’s community property income, those payments are not eligible for tax deductions.

Let Holstrom, Block & Parke Protect Your Interests in Divorce

With over 300 years of combined experience, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke is ready to help calculate tax impacts and negotiate for advantageous determinations when it comes to the amount and duration of alimony. We can assist with establishing initial arrangements or seeking court orders to modify arrangements.

To learn more about the ways we can protect your interests with respect to alimony and other aspects of divorce, schedule a confidential consultation today.

Can Alimony Be Modified in California?

Whether you are paying alimony or receiving alimony, the payments make a big impact on your life and financial situation. For the payor, sometimes the impact is too big, not leaving you enough to live on. Or for the recipient, the impact may not be big enough, leaving you short when it comes time to pay bills.

So, the logical question is whether you can modify alimony obligations in California. The answer, as with so many questions in the law, depends on the situation. We will explore the rules on alimony modification and the steps you can take to help achieve your goals for revision.

A Modification Must Be Justified

To change spousal support—which is the term California uses for alimony—you must usually demonstrate a change in circumstances that justifies the modification. However, there are not hard and fast rules describing exactly what constitutes a change that is sufficient to justify modification.

The person seeking the modification must present evidence to support the need for a modification. Courts are obligated to consider the same factors in a request for modification as they did in the original determination about whether to award spousal support. So a former partner seeking a modification could demonstrate a change in factors such as:

  • Obligations and assets of each party
  • The marketable skills of the party receiving support and the need for training
  • Age and health
  • Whether the receiving party’s ability to work is affected by the need to care for dependent children

The party seeking the modification will need to provide pay stubs or similar evidence of recent income. Payors frequently request a modification if they have lost a job or their work income is reduced in some other way. If the reduction is due to a factor within the control of the paying spouse, such as a voluntary reduction in hours or voluntarily taking a job that pays less, then the court tends to look disfavorably on the request for modification. Recipients of alimony often seek modifications to gain additional amounts if they or a child has medical problems or other additional needs that increase expenses or make it harder to earn income.

There Must Not Be a Prior Agreement Preventing Modification

One thing the court will need to confirm before modifying a spousal support order is whether the parties had established a valid agreement that prevented modification of support. That agreement could be contained in a pre- or postnuptial agreement, or as part of the order establishing alimony obligations.

Even an oral agreement specifying that alimony will not be modified is enforceable if it was made in open court.

Statutory Reasons for Modification of Spousal Support

Some of the statutes regarding spousal support specifically state that certain situations do or do not provide grounds for a modification of alimony. For instance, Section 4326 of the California Family Code states that “termination of child support pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 3901 constitutes a change of circumstances that may be the basis for a request by either party for modification of spousal support.” (This refers to termination of child support because the child has graduated high school or reaches the age of 19.)

As another example, Section 4323 establishes a rebuttable presumption that if the party receiving support cohabits with a partner, that party has a decreased need for support. The statute continues to state that if the court determines that circumstances have indeed changed, the court can modify or terminate alimony. However, the income of the partner the supported party is living with cannot be considered in determining whether a modification of support is justified.

An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether statutory factors provide justification for a modification of alimony in your situation.

Failure to Become Self-Supporting

Alimony in California is generally designed to last only long enough to enable the receiving spouse to become self-supporting. The general assumption is that the longer a spouse has been married and focused on supporting the home, the longer it will take them to develop earning capacity to maintain the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.

If a spouse does not have a condition that prevents them from working, and that spouse doesn’t do much to increase employability or look for a job, the failure to attempt to become self-supporting has been held as grounds to justify modification of spousal support. More often, the lack of effort to become self-supporting is used to justify a refusal to extend alimony, but it could also provide grounds to reduce or terminate obligations.

Working Closely with an Experienced Attorney Can Allow You to Obtain the Modification You Need

Determinations about whether and how to modify spousal support are extremely fact-specific. That means if you are seeking a modification, or you want to show why a modification is not warranted, you need to work closely with your attorney to ensure that they have the best factual information to support your goals.

At Holstom, Block & Parke, APLC, our team of Certified Family Law Specialists and associates understands the factors courts find persuasive in modification cases. Schedule a confidential consultation to learn how we can help you get the modification you need.

Forensic Accounting in Divorce

The popularity of crime shows makes many people automatically associate the word “forensic” with efforts to solve a murder. While the term can apply to the use of scientific methods to investigate potential crime, forensic also has a second meaning relating to the law and the court system. Forensic accounting in divorce references both meanings of the word.

If you are concerned that a spouse may be attempting to hide assets or dispute whether certain assets should be classified as one spouse’s separate property, a forensic accountant can trace assets and provide the answers you need to protect your interests. Moreover, a forensic accountant will also provide evidence in a form you can use in court. Here are some of the ways forensic accounting is used in divorce in California.

Locating Hidden Assets

A forensic accountant can analyze tax returns, financial statements, loan applications,and a host of other financial records to detect signs of hidden income or assets moved off the record. If a spouse owns a business, that provides additional opportunities to conceal money and property, so it is particularly helpful to have an experienced professional who knows where to look and how to identify discrepancies.

Forensic accountants use a variety of methods to locate and identify assets to detect different types of fraud in divorce.

Characterizing Property as Marital or Separate

In divorce, couples divide assets considered to be marital property, but each spouse keeps the assets that are determined to be their separate property.  Property that a spouse owned before marriage or received by inheritance is usually their separate property initially, but it can be commingled with marital property and become at least partially marital property.

Using forensic accounting techniques to trace property can help a spouse show what percentage of property value should be treated as separate property and not divided in divorce.

Assistance During Financial Discovery

Because forensic accountants understand legal proceedings and focus their skills on the analysis of financial documents, they can provide valuable assistance during the discovery process in divorce. Discovery is the fact-finding stage of a legal case, and skilled attorneys know that they can essentially win their case through the strategic use of discovery processes. Through financial discovery, your legal team can gain the information that puts you at an advantage in negotiation and in arguments presented in court.

Business Valuation

When one or both spouses own an interest in a closely-held business, many financial factors associated with the business will have an impact on the divorce. For instance, some or all of the value of the business may be marital property that must be divided. Forensic accounting methods can help establish an accurate value.

In addition, forensic accounting can be used to assess the value of a spouse’s contributions to the business. These determinations can allow the process of dividing marital property to proceed with more confidence all around.

Calculating Cash Flow

When determining how much income a business owner can reasonably be expected to contribute to the support of a spouse or child, it is essential to understand several elements of cash flow connected with the business. Forensic accounting can be used to calculate cash flow that can in turn be used to help establish a fair division of property, ability to provide or need for alimony, and child support obligations.

Expert Testimony in Court

Knowing information is one thing, but proving it in court is often another matter. Forensic accounting uses scientific methods to locate information and calculate conclusions, but it also uses logical chain reasoning to prepare evidence that can stand up to scrutiny in court.

A forensic accountant can prepare specific evidence to be used to demonstrate particular financial facts, but a forensic accountant can also serve as a qualified expert witness to testify to certain truths in accounting. They can explain their analysis of financial information and show why it supports legal arguments made on behalf of a client in divorce.

Holstrom, Block & Parke Understands How to Take Full Advantages of the Benefits of Forensic Accounting in Divorce

As in marriage itself, many of the most ardent arguments in divorce concern financial issues and lack of trust. Forensic accounting techniques can uncover fraud, but they can also be used to confirm the absence of fraud. In either case, use of forensic accounting protects both parties and ensures that divorce terms are fair and reasonable because they are based on accurate financial knowledge.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our team makes excellent use of forensic accounting methods to put our clients in the best position, whether we are negotiating divorce terms out of court or presenting our case to the judge. If you’d like to discuss the ways forensic accounting could be used in your specific situation, just schedule a confidential consultation.

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