To reflect cultural trends, like an increase of women in the workforce, spousal support is not as extensive as it once was. Courts consider many different factors when determining the appropriate amount and duration of child support. As outlined in California Family Code section 4320, these include the following.
- The length of the marriage or domestic partnership;
- The needs of each person, based on standard of living during the marriage;
- The earnings and earning capacity of each person relative to maintaining this standard of living;
- The effects of employment on ability to care for children;
- The age and health of both spouses;
- Property, assets, and debts;
- Whether one spouse assisted the other in obtaining an education, training, certification, or other professional pursuits;
- Whether one spouse’s career was affected by unemployment or acting as the children’s primary caregiver;
- The tax impact of spousal support;
- Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage.
Additional factors may also apply for special circumstances.
Permanent Alimony Isn’t Exactly Permanent
To distinguish it from temporary alimony, permanent alimony is the legal term for court orders regarding long-term spousal support. The term misleads, somewhat: “permanent alimony” isn’t exactly permanent. Per California divorce law, a “reasonable period of time” usually refers to one-half of the length of the marriage. However, the law also gives judges discretion to make a different decision based on specific case circumstances. For marriages considered “long-term” (typically 10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date to the spousal support order. Still, these orders can be modified or terminated given certain conditions.
Alimony is tax deductible in California, as long as you and your spouse file separate tax returns. The paying spouse can deduct the full amount of alimony payments made during the tax year for which he or she files, while the recipient spouse must report alimony payments as taxable income. Alimony is not deductible if you file jointly, so weigh the benefits of filing a joint return properly with this lost benefit in mind.