Spousal Support

Legal Representation for San Francisco Residents Seeking a Divorce

In California, alimony is known as “spousal support.” It may be awarded to the lower-earning spouse during divorce proceedings. In some cases, spouses can agree on spousal support through the use of alternative dispute resolution. The experienced divorce attorneys at Lerner Poole & Stewart, LLP have more than 25 years of combined experience assisting individuals throughout the Bay Area with matters related to spousal support. Our San Francisco spousal support lawyers can help you negotiate an agreement or litigate a dispute before a judge. Whether you need spousal support or you oppose the amount your former spouse is requesting, our Certified Family Law Specialists can offer you knowledgeable representation that serves your interests.

Allocating Spousal Support in California

Spousal support may be temporary (“pendente lite”) support for the duration of divorce proceedings, or it may be an order that applies after the divorce is final. When support is awarded after the divorce, support terminates for various reasons, such as remarriage, death of a spouse, or a change in circumstances. The support may be a lump sum payment, or it may be structured as periodic payments over a period of time. Although spousal support is usually associated with divorce, the court may also order it in connection with a legal separation, with an annulment, or in the case of a domestic violence restraining order.

Generally, the duration of periodic spousal support payments is tied to the length of the marriage. If a marriage lasts less than 10 years, California courts usually do not order support for more than half the length of the marriage. However, judges have the power to decide the length should be different based on specific aspects of the marriage.

If a marriage lasts 10 or more years, there is a presumption that the marriage is one of “long duration,” and the court may not set a definite termination date to the spousal support. Under California Family Code section 4336(a), a marriage of long duration gives the court jurisdiction indefinitely after the divorce unless the spouses agree otherwise.

Although long-term support may be referred to as “permanent” spousal support, it is rare for the support to last permanently. Permanent spousal support applies in a limited number of cases, such as when a spouse receiving support is disabled or too old to work. The spouse who receives support is expected to try to become self-supporting, such as by obtaining further education or getting a job. Moreover, some support orders reduce the support over time until the amount is nominal. Our spousal support attorneys can advise San Francisco residents on the options that may be suited to their needs.

Final spousal support orders require the court to consider factors listed in California Family Code section 4320, including how long the marriage was, the standard of living during the marriage, what each person can pay to keep the standard of living, whether having a job would affect any children adversely, the age and health of both spouses, debts and property division, whether one of the spouses helped the other get training or an education, domestic violence, and any tax consequences. In determining whether a spouse can keep the standard of living he or she had during the marriage, the judge usually looks at whether that spouse has marketable skills, the current state of the job market, and the amount of time it could take the spouse to get education or training to have more marketable skills or find a job.

After a divorce, either spouse’s circumstances might change. Perhaps the person paying support loses his or her job. Or perhaps the spouse receiving support makes no effort to become self-supporting. If there is a change in circumstances, a spouse can ask the court to modify the order. The full amount of support that is ordered will be due to the spouse receiving support, until the order is changed. An unpaid balance will accrue interest.

Contact a Spousal Support Lawyer in San Francisco

If you are pursuing a divorce in San Ramon, Lafayette, or elsewhere in Contra Costa County or the Bay Area, you may have questions for a family law attorney about child support, spousal support, or other complex issues. Spousal support is often a source of tension and conflict in divorces. Whether you are seeking support or opposing it, the experienced San Francisco spousal support attorneys at Lerner Poole & Stewart, LLP can help advocate for your position. You can contact us at (415) 391-6000 or via our online form to schedule an initial consultation.

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