Types of Spousal Support

*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.

Rodriguez Law Group, Inc. February 18, 2022

If you or someone you know is going through the divorce process, you probably have a lot of questions about what the aftermath of that looks like. You have likely heard of child support, but have you heard of spousal support? Spousal support, or alimony refers to recurring payments made from one spouse to another. The party that pays the alimony would be the one who is higher-earning.

Alimony payments begin after a divorce has been finalized by the court. In most divorces, even tough issues like child custody, child support, and division of property can be determined, albeit maybe with some contention, outside of courts. However alimony is one issue that many have trouble coming to terms with.

While it may sound frustrating that a portion of your income might have to continue going toward an ex-spouse, the purpose of alimony is to make a divorce less financially devastating. Alimony is designed to keep the terms of marriage dissolution more balanced, without necessitating that one party has to transition to a drastically reduced or even non-existent income. Would it be fair for a wife who spent the marriage working hard to raise her and her husband's children to be left with nothing at its conclusion just because the work she did was not income generating? No, not in this writer’s opinion.

In California, there are four types of spousal support. The three commonly recognized types are rehabilitative, temporary and permanent spousal support. California also recognizes a fourth kind less commonly used, called “reimbursement” spousal support.

Rehabilitative support is the most common type of spousal support and is seen in cases where one spouse earns more than the other or was the primary earner in the family while the other cared for the parties' children and home during the marriage. The goal of rehabilitative support is to give the lower-earning spouse enough support to allow time to gain valuable job skills or education to enter the workforce and become self-supporting.

The purpose of temporary support is to allow a lower-earning spouse to cover living expenses during the divorce process. This type of support is unique in that the courts usually calculate the amount of support by using the California child support guidelines instead of the factors used in other types of support.

Permanent spousal support is exceedingly uncommon, and the court typically reserves it for spouses ending a long-term marriage (meaning ten or more years) where one spouse can't enter the workforce due to advanced age or illness/infirmity.

California is unique in that they recognize reimbursement support. If one spouse helped finance the other's education or career advancement training during the marriage, that spouse could request reimbursement support to recoup the funds used during the marriage. The idea behind reimbursement support is that when spouses work together to allow one to get an advanced degree, both will benefit from the advancements during the marriage. When couples divorce, only the spouse with the degree will benefit, and the court understands that may not be fair to the other.

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