Spousal support, or alimony, is the amount of money the supported spouse will receive each month.  The amount will be determined by order of the court or by agreement of the parties. There are two categories of spousal support, temporary and “permanent.” Until 2019, Spousal support is usually taxable to the recipient and tax deductible by the payor.  After 2019, because of the recent tax bill signed by President Trump, spousal support orders will no longer be taxable to the party receiving the payment or tax deductible by payor.


Temporary Spousal Support Order


Temporary spousal support is the support that is paid between the time the parties separate and when the divorce is finalized, whether by agreement or by court order.  The purpose of temporary spousal support is to allow the supported party the ability to adjust from the marital standard of living to the eventual support received in the final order.  Temporary spousal support is generally higher than “permanent” spousal support.


When ordered by the court, temporary spousal support is typically a guideline amount calculated by a computer program.  It is generally based upon each party’s income, tax deductions, medical insurance costs, mortgage interest and property deductions as well as child support considerations.  Certified Specialist Jennifer Britt has the tools and experience to help guide and advise you in this area.  It is important that you discuss this issue with her at the earliest opportunity because there are timing and strategy considerations that must be addressed.

“Permanent” Spousal Support Order (Not Necessarily Permanent)


A final or “permanent” spousal support order is entered at end of the divorce, again whether by agreement or by court order after a hearing.  A “permanent” spousal support order can have a termination date or be ordered indefinitely. 


Judges are given very wide discretion in making spousal support orders and can vary widely by judicial officer in the amount and duration. In short-term marriages, generally those that are less than 10 years, the court will typically order spousal support paid for a period of time equal to half the length of the marriage but are not required to do so. In long-term marriages, the court may order support paid indefinitely. The court must consider all of the factors contained in Family Code section 4320 (http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/family-code/fam-sect-4320.html) before making a final or “permanent” spousal support order.  “Permanent” support orders are generally lower than temporary support orders.


Modification of Spousal Support


Unless the parties have an order not to seek changes in spousal support, either party may request modification or termination of spousal support payments. The basis for modification of spousal support is very fact specific to each case.  Therefore, it is crucial to contact the Law Office of Jennifer A. Britt, APC as soon as a situation arises so you can determine whether it is appropriate to seek modification.  Judges continue to have wide discretion in making any modification to spousal support orders.  It is important to note that even though circumstances may have changed, the order remains in effect until changed by the court.  Spousal support terminates on the death of either party, or on the remarriage of the payee, absent an order stating otherwise.