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Spousal Support [Alimony] FAQ



[Note: In this section, the wife is referred to as the spouse receiving spousal support for convenience only. It should be understood that husbands can also request and receive spousal support from wives.]

1)  Can I get temporary spousal support while my case is pending?

Spousal support is often awarded at an Order to Show Cause on a temporary basis, where one spouse is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other spouse.

The Superior Courts of Orange and Los Angeles Counties have adopted a spousal support guideline for use in setting temporary spousal support. This guideline requires that the husband's spousal support is 40% of his net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the wife's net monthly income.

Where child support is being paid, the guideline level of child support is first calculated. Then, spousal support is determined.

2)  If I am not working right now, at the initial Order to Show Cause hearing, will I be required to find a job immediately?

At the order to show cause hearing, the judge is not concerned about the employability of the wife. Instead, at this stage, the judge merely wants to preserve the status quo and provide the wife with sufficient income for her basic needs, consistent with the parties' life style.

3)  How does a judge determine spousal support at the time of the trial?

At the trial of the dissolution, the California Family Code provides the judge with a long list of factors that are to be considered in determining the amount and duration of spousal support.

This list includes such factors as the length of the marriage, the parties' prior living standard, the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the:

  • attainment of an education or professional license by the other spouse;
  • presence of young children in the home;
  • employment opportunities available to the spouse requesting support.

4)  How long will my spousal support last?

In general, where the marriage has lasted more than 10 years, the court will, at the very least require a "reservation of jurisdiction."

This means that, even if there is no current order for spousal support, thewife will be permitted to come back to court at a later date to request spousal support should the need arise.

5)  Is the spousal support I am paying tax deductible?

The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as "ordinary income."

For this reason, it is not uncommon for a negotiated settlement to include the payment of a high amount of spousal support, because such a payment results in tax a benefit to the husband.

6)  Can I get medical insurance benefits through my spouse's employer after the dissolution of marriage?

Under Federal Law you might be entitled to keep your medical insurance benefits under your former spouse's group plan.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 created what are commonly known as "C. O. B. R. A." benefits, which are avail able to the former spouses of people who work for employers who have 20 or more employees.

In general this law provides that employers must offer "continuation coverage" for the first three years after the termination of the marriage.

The law further provides that the employer can charge the former spouse for this coverage, but the charge cannot be more than 2% greater than what is charged to employees.

After the three years have ended, the law states that the employer must offer a former spouse the right to purchase "conversion coverage", but there are no limits on how much the employer can charge for this coverage.

The C. O. B. R. A. law further provides that the former spouse does not have to pass a physical examination in order to obtain the continuation or conversion benefits.

This is significant if you have any pre-existing conditions that might not be covered by another medical insurance carrier.

In order to obtain your C. O. B. R. A. benefits you have to file your application with your spouse's employer by no later than sixty (60) days after the termination of your marriage.

If you do not file your application by that date you will not be able to get these important benefits.

If you wish to have your C. O. B. R. A. benefits you must contact your former spouse's employer directly and request the appropriate forms. This is not a service that is customarily performed by our office.

You must contact your former spouse's employer directly if you want to obtain these benefits.