You may have heard of alimony or “spousal support,” but it can be difficult to understand exactly when you might be able to claim alimony. In California, alimony almost always involves court proceedings, and it is usually only available if you are going through a divorce or legal separation. Our Ventura alimony attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain when you can claim alimony in California and how to know if you are entitled to alimony.
What is Alimony in California?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money that one spouse pays another. Typically, alimony is paid after a divorce is finalized and goes into effect, but it is also available during proceedings and under some other specialized circumstances.
The goal of alimony is to give the spouse enough money to support themselves. In many cases, one of the spouses may be a stay-at-home spouse or may not have as much income as the other party. Alimony ensures that they have enough money to support themselves after the divorce and that they can afford an attorney and living expenses while the divorce proceedings are in progress.
Alimony is separate from child support and is paid directly to the spouse for the spouse’s own support. Child support is paid on top of this to support the children specifically.
When Can I Claim Alimony in California?
Usually, you claim alimony as part of divorce proceedings or annulment proceedings. While the proceedings are underway, you can typically claim “alimony pendente lite” to cover your expenses while the case is finalized. You may also be able to claim ongoing alimony after the divorce is finalized. This will give you financial support on an ongoing basis to help you get back on your own feet after ending the marriage.
You can also claim alimony during legal separation. This is essentially the same as a divorce and is often used as a “trial run” for couples considering divorce. In this situation, spouses would live separately and be financially independent, but they would still be legally married.
Alimony is also available in divorces and separations to end a domestic partnership. Domestic partnerships afford individuals with many of the same rights as marriage, including the right to claim alimony.
The other time that alimony may be available is quite surprising. Victims of domestic violence can usually file for a restraining order for protection from abuse. When this happens, a court may issue a “kick out” order which requires the abusive spouse to leave the household. To prevent an abusive spouse from exerting undue control or pressure on the victim, courts can also award temporary alimony while the restraining order is in effect.
If you live separately from your spouse and need financial support, you can likely file for alimony under California law. Unfortunately, however, alimony is not available in cases of breakups or ending a long-term relationship involving cohabitation. Unless a couple is legally married (or has a legally registered domestic partnership), there is no right to alimony in CA. Many of these cases are called “palimony” cases, whether that name is appropriate or not. Currently in CA, there is no right to “palimony,” but promises for support and care between unmarried people might be enforceable on the basis of having a contract rather than filing a claim for alimony.
Factors to Qualify for Alimony in California
Ending a marriage or becoming separated gives you the legal right to claim alimony, but it does not automatically guarantee that a court will award you alimony. After filing for alimony, a court will investigate the case and listen to your claims before making the decision of whether or not to order alimony and how much alimony to order.
Courts look at a variety of factors when determining whether or not alimony will be granted in your case. These factors primarily deal with each party’s abilities to support themselves, both financially and physically. When looking at whether each party’s independent support is “enough,” courts do not look at an objective standard like minimum wage or the poverty line. Instead, they look at the standard of living that the parties had during their marriage and the length of the marriage, thus spousal support should help you match that level of care and comfort.
The alimony factors a court must look at include the following:
- Each party’s needs
- Each party’s income
- Each party’s debts and assets
- The standard of living and needs the parties established during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- Each party’s job skills and ability to seek retraining or additional education
- Each party’s age and health
- The parties’ ability to care for children while working
- The balance of hardships between each party
There are additional factors the court must also consider. In addition to these other mandatory factors, the court can consider additional factors that are not listed in Family code 4320.
One other factor that is important in establishing alimony is a history of domestic violence between the parties. If one spouse has a history of spousal abuse or domestic violence against the other spouse, the victim may be more likely to receive alimony.
Ventura Alimony Lawyers Offering Free Legal Consultations
If you need help with your alimony claim, contact the Ventura family lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth. Our attorneys represent husbands and wives in alimony and divorce cases in California. For help claiming alimony, contact our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation. Our number is (805) 585-5056.