You may have heard horror stories and dramatic exaggerations about alimony on television shows or movies, but now you’re facing a divorce case of your own and wondering what to really expect. Many myths and misperceptions surround alimony, or spousal/partner support. It is a type of financial support one spouse may have to give to another if the courts deem it necessary and appropriate for the situation. Here are three myths about alimony in California, debunked.
Alimony Serves to Punish One Party
Many people mistakenly believe that alimony is a form of punishment for the spouse who must pay. This is not true. The only purpose alimony aims to serve is to provide financial support to a spouse who otherwise would not have the means to continue living according to the standards he/she enjoyed while married. Since California is a “no-fault” divorce state, the courts will not look at fault when determining matters such as property division or alimony. Instead, the courts will make decisions based on the needs of both parties.
Alimony is never a “right” or a guarantee in a California divorce case. Just because your spouse cheated on you or otherwise caused the divorce does not mean the courts will grant you alimony. You may qualify for alimony payments based on you and your ex-spouse’s income levels, employment history, education, length of marriage, and other factors – not based on who is to blame for the marriage not lasting. If you are the party the court orders to pay alimony, try not to think of it as a punishment, but as a way in which you support your ex-spouse.
Alimony Is Automatic
Unlike matters such as child custody, alimony is not something a judge or mediator will automatically bring up. Instead, alimony is something one spouse must request during the complex divorce process. California law does not automatically obligate one spouse to start making payments to the other after a divorce. It is a matter that requires a judge’s insights based on a variety of factors. Whether someone will receive alimony varies according to each situation.
Alimony is not a “one-size-fits-all” court order with automatic payment amounts. There is not a magic alimony calculator. Instead, it is a solution a judge will tailor according to each couple’s unique situation and needs. Judges based alimony arrangement amounts on how long you’ve been married, the amount you’ve supported the household (domestically and financially), and how much you and/or your spouse earn. You can get an idea of how much your alimony arrangement might be by talking to a family law attorney.
Alimony Lasts Forever
If a California judge does award alimony in a divorce case, it’s not necessarily forever. Most alimony arrangements are only temporary. They last until the recipient spouse gains the means to support his/herself, such as further education or job experience. In cases involving long marriages and/or spouses that gave up educational or job opportunities to care for the house or children, the courts might award permanent alimony. Most alimony arrangements will end if the recipient remarries.
An alimony arrangement – no matter how long it lasts – doesn’t have to mean a messy divorce. Whether you’re the one paying or receiving alimony after a split, at least you’ll have a fresh start once the divorce case is over. Knowing as much as you can about alimony in California can help you prepare yourself for what is to come. Learn more about your specific divorce case and potential alimony orders during a conversation with an attorney. Work with an experienced divorce attorney to help make the legal process easier on you and your family.