Alimony is one of many issues that can complicate a divorce settlement. Many Californians may know something about alimony themselves or from the publicity surrounding high-profile divorce cases. What many people do not realize, though, is that alimony is more than a request for monthly financial support from a higher wage-earning spouse. It also emphasizes the lack of financial control one spouse had during a marriage.
Basically, alimony is the legal obligation of one spouse to provide monthly financial support to the other. In the past, spousal support was thought to be a right. But once no-fault divorce laws were enacted all across the country, including in California, the right of spouses to seek alimony became conditional.
The amount and duration of alimony is now based on case law and statutory factors, which can make divorce cases complicated. For example, a wife and husband are not always economic equals. Many wives stay at home as homemakers while their husbands work to provide for their families and households. And because each spouse is different in income and earning potential, alimony awards are not always equal.
Unlike child support with guidelines acting as the basis for judges to set child-support amounts, no general formula or standard exists for determining alimony. Every state has its own statutes that identify alimony, whether it is reasonable and whether it should be awarded. There are also six kinds of alimony across the country: rehabilitative, permanent, temporary, reimbursement, durational and lump sum. Alimony reforms in the future may not actually resolve some of these issues and confusion surrounding alimony.
Understanding alimony can be challenging at best and impossible at worst. However, the complexity of spousal support following divorce means that California spouses should pay close attention to how they can protect their finances and financial situations after divorce.
Source: Time, “Alimony is broken-but let’s not fix it,” Lili A. Vasileff, Sept.1, 2014