Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer

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Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer

SPOUSAL SUPPORT / ALIMONY ATTORNEY IN ORANGE COUNTY, CA?

Divorce can easily present several contentious issues to the spouses involved, many of which are financial. California enforces a strict community property law when it comes to the division of marital property, requiring each spouse to take 50% of their marital assets regardless of the reason behind the divorce. However, in some cases, property division is not the only financial issue the spouses face, particularly when one has been financially dependent on their partner for many years during marriage.

Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer

Spousal support can come into play in divorce proceedings for many reasons. Typically, spousal support is assigned when one spouse earns substantially less income than the other or when they will be unable to support themselves independently after divorce due to a disability or medical condition that prevents them from working. Any financial issue in divorce that entails a long-term agreement can easily be hotly contested, and it’s natural for each spouse to strive to maximize their position in this type of dispute.

If you face a difficult divorce in the near future and suspect spousal support will come into play, it’s vital to work with an Orange County spousal support lawyer to get the best deal possible whether you’re expecting to pay or receive spousal support. The right attorney can not only help you ensure a fair and reasonable outcome to this aspect of your divorce, but for the other issues your divorce entails as well. Legal counsel you can trust is an invaluable asset no matter what issues you must address in your divorce.

Why Do I Need an Orange County Spousal Support Lawyer?

Attempting to handle any divorce case without legal representation is very risky. While you may think your case is simple enough, the reality is that any divorce can present unforeseen issues that you won’t be able to address alone. In addition, while you may have reservations about the potential cost of legal counsel, you stand to lose more than you would save by not hiring an attorney, especially when it comes to long-term financial agreements within your divorce order.

The attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski understand this and go to great lengths to achieve the best possible results for their clients. Spousal support is often at issue in marital dissolution cases. When our client is entitled to spousal support, we vigorously pursue a plan to ensure the highest possible support award. Conversely, when we represent the payor spouse, we take all actions necessary to minimize both the amount and duration of support. Unlike child support, which is determined under California Guidelines based on income, a spousal support order award can fluctuate greatly depending on representation.

The quality of the legal representation you hire to assist you with your divorce can significantly impact the final results of your case. When you choose Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, to represent you in divorce, we’ll carefully review your financial records and the unique details of your case to help you determine the best approach to resolving spousal support. Many divorcing couples in California prefer to resolve their cases through alternative dispute resolution. We’ll assist you in determining whether this option would best suit your interests and goals for your divorce. Every divorce will entail some measure of litigation, but we can do our best to help you minimize the time you must spend in the courtroom if this is what you prefer.

How Does Spousal Support Work in California?

The purpose of spousal support is to allow the supported spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to what they had while married. In most cases, spousal support aims to provide financial assistance until the supported spouse can secure employment that allows them to maintain their lifestyle independently. In rare cases, spousal support is awarded on a permanent schedule to reflect the supported spouse’s needs, and this will only terminate under very specific conditions.
The amount paid in spousal support typically hinges on the difference in the financial situations of the divorcing spouses, and the time which payments must continue depends on how long the marriage lasted. However, both of these factors are flexible. “Income” may not only apply to wages earned from work but also investment dividends or disbursements from retirement savings. When it comes to the duration of the marriage, some courts will aim for spousal support to continue for roughly half the length of time the marriage lasted, but this can be increased when a supported spouse cannot work due to medical issues or a significant lack of training and education.

The paying spouse will naturally want to minimize their financial obligation to the other, and the supported spouse will understandably want to maximize the amount they receive in spousal support. Navigating the complex financial matters that factor into these issues can be very difficult without experienced legal counsel, and it’s essential to have an Orange County spousal support attorney you can trust assisting you with this matter.

Can I Negotiate Spousal Support Privately With My Spouse?

Alternative dispute resolution can offer significant opportunities for private settlement in a divorce case. Two of the most popular forms of alternative dispute resolution are collaborative divorce and mediation. In collaborative divorce, the spouses and their respective attorneys meet privately to negotiate terms for their divorce order. The couple will negotiate item by item as much as possible until they arrive at a set of mutually agreeable divorce terms.

Mediation is a similar process that involves a neutral third party. This mediator is tasked with ensuring a productive conversation, clarifying any general legal statutes that apply to the divorce, and helping the couple draft their divorce order. In both alternative dispute resolution methods, the couple can potentially avoid a great deal of divorce litigation and save time and money on their divorce. They can also reach more preferable terms than they likely would if a judge resolved every aspect of their divorce in court.

Alternative dispute resolution is almost always worth the effort, and the only actual requirement is that both spouses must be willing to negotiate. Alternative dispute resolution does have limitations, however. While the couple can usually resolve most of their divorce’s financial issues, such as property division and spousal support, they cannot resolve any child custody or child support issues. The Orange County family court system has a legal obligation to rule on these issues and preserve the best interests of the children affected by the order.

When you and your spouse agree to negotiate aspects of your divorce privately, it’s possible to reach more agreeable results, but it’s vital to have legal counsel advising you throughout the process. Some spouses who would likely be entitled to spousal support may agree to compromise and take a larger share of marital property to offset the need for support. Others may not be so agreeable. Ultimately, every divorce case will pose unique issues, and the quality of your outcome likely hinges on the quality of your legal representation.

Can I Change or End a Spousal Support Agreement?

Spousal support must continue for the duration assigned by the divorce order. However, every spousal support order will include specific terms and conditions for the recipient. Since spousal support aims to compensate for a substantial difference in income, if the recipient’s financial situation changes significantly, they must report such changes to the court. The divorce order may stipulate that spousal support will end once the recipient reaches a certain income level. It may also stipulate that spousal support will end if they begin living with a new partner or if they remarry.

If you receive spousal support and experience any such meaningful change to your financial situation, it’s vital to immediately report these changes to the court. If you continue collecting spousal support when you legally should not, and the payor has not been appropriately notified of a terminating action, they may have grounds for a civil action against you, and you could face contempt of court and other penalties.

If you pay spousal support and experience a notable change in your circumstances that influences your ability to pay, you must also notify the court. You may have grounds for a modification to your spousal support order to reduce or terminate your payment obligation, but you must follow the appropriate procedures and secure formal approval from the court. For example, if you suffered a catastrophic injury that disabled you and will prevent you from working in the future, this is a meaningful change in your circumstances that likely justifies termination of your spousal support obligation. However, you cannot simply stop paying spousal support or risk penalties. Instead, consult your Orange County spousal support lawyer about the best way to have your spousal support agreement modified.

Penalties for Nonpayment of Spousal Support in Orange County, California

A spousal support order is a lawful family court order, and the penalties for willful violation of a lawful family court order can be severe. For example, if a spouse is entitled to receive spousal support, but the paying spouse has failed or refused to make payments as required, the recipient would be justified in filing contempt proceedings against the payor. Contempt of court applies whenever a party beholden to a court order violates the terms of the order of their own volition. The penalties may include:

  • Fines.
  • Jail time until the payor meets their financial obligation.
  • Wage garnishment, in which the payor’s employer will deduct spousal support directly from paychecks.
  • Liability for the other spouse’s legal fees.

It’s important to remember that both a payor and a recipient could face contempt of court if they violate their spousal support order. Refusal to pay spousal support as required can easily lead to contempt proceedings, but so could the recipient’s failure to report a significant change in their circumstances as required by the support order. Ultimately, if you are unsure whether recent events would justify filing contempt proceedings against your former spouse, it’s vital to consult an experienced Orange County spousal support attorney as soon as possible.

Hidden Assets in Divorce

Financial disclosure is one of the most critical components of the divorce process. Each spouse must provide complete financial records that establish the full scope of the property, assets, and debt they control. In addition, their financial disclosure statements are essential for property division determination and determining child support and spousal support.

When spousal support is likely to come into play in a divorce, either spouse may attempt to obfuscate their financial status to gain an advantage in spousal support determination. For example, the payor could try to hide certain assets to lower the amount of income they report to the court, thus resulting in a lower payment obligation. The recipient may also attempt to do the same to assert that they have a higher support need than they have. Ultimately, there are many ways a divorcing spouse may attempt to hide assets in a divorce, and the penalties for doing so can be severe.

If you suspect that your spouse has been untruthful in their financial disclosure statement, it’s essential to speak with your attorney about how to best address the situation. Your attorney may consult with financial experts such as forensic accountants who can potentially reveal your spouse’s behavior. If you must do so and prove that your spouse lied in their financial disclosure statement, they will likely face contempt of court. Depending on the lengths to which they have gone to hide their activities, they could face criminal charges as well. It is never worth attempting to hide assets or engage in fraudulent activities regarding your divorce. Doing so will almost certainly lead to severe penalties and a worse spousal support order than you otherwise would have obtained.

FAQs About Child Support / Modification Laws in Orange County, CA

DOES THE COURT DISCRIMINATE BASED ON GENDER WHEN ORDERING SPOUSAL SUPPORT?

No. Gender has nothing to do with Child Support. Unlike child support, which is generally determined using the statewide algorithm, spousal support is determined by the Court using factors found in California family code section 4320. And gender is not one of the factors.

HOW MUCH SPOUSAL SUPPORT WILL I RECEIVE?

The amount of Spousal Support ordered will heavily depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. Also, the Court treats temporary spousal support differently than permanent support. Indeed, a temporary support order tends to be higher than a permanent support order. Generally, the court will follow the DissoMaster guidelines to establish a temporary support order, while permanent support orders are set based on the factors set out in Family Code section 4320. The attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can assist you in obtaining the best Spousal Support Order for your situation.

HOW LONG WILL I HAVE TO PAY SPOUSAL SUPPORT FOR?

The length of time a spouse will be required to pay spousal support, also known as alimony, will depend on a number of factors. These factors include the length of the marriage. For marriage over ten years, unless the parties agree otherwise, the court may retain jurisdiction until the death of one of the parties. (See family code section 4336.) For marriages of less than 10 years, there is a presumption that alimony should be paid for up to half of the length of the marriage. For example, if the parties were married for six years, the presumption is that spousal support should be paid for three years maximum. Keep in mind that each situation is different, and a support order may exceed or be less than what is typically awarded.

IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT TAXABLE?

There has been new legislation in this matter that has drastically changed how spousal support is addressed for tax purposes. Indeed, any spousal support ordered pursuant to a Court Order issued on or after January 1, 2019, is no longer deductible to the payor. Conversely, any support ordered pursuant to a Spousal Support order issued on or before December 31, 2018, is and will continue to be a deduction for the payor.

CAN I OBTAIN SPOUSAL SUPPORT ON AN EMERGENCY BASIS?

Yes. You may absolutely request temporary emergency Spousal Support, also known as “pendente lite” support. And the sooner you make the request, the sooner you will begin receiving support. This is why you should not delay in filing a request for support since it may take weeks before a hearing is set. While we often file an “ex parte” application asking the court to set an earlier hearing so that you may begin receiving support sooner, there is no guarantee that a court will grant such a request.

CAN A COURT MODIFY A PERMANENT SPOUSAL SUPPORT ORDER?

Yes. A court may modify a permanent Spousal Support order if: 1- the court retained jurisdiction to modify support and there is no provision in the judgment that the Spousal Support order is non-modifiable; and 2-there is a material change of circumstances, such as the loss of employment, the loss of health insurance, or other significant event, which materially alters the payor’s income and the ability to pay.

HOW IS SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOME TREATED IN CALCULATING ALIMONY?

To determine the amount of Spousal Support owed, the Court must first establish the payor party’s income available for support. And making this determination may be challenging when the party is self-employed. Indeed, a self-employed person’s reported income is nearly always lower than his or her true income. Self-employed individuals frequently receive certain “perks” from the company, such as vehicle allowances, paid expenses, etc. These “perks” may be added-back as income for support purposes.

While obtaining tax returns is mandatory in any spousal support action, it is merely the starting point of an intense and extensive discovery process. The Support attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, in addition to demanding disclosure of financial documents by the other party, will also subpoena bank records, credit card records, loan applications, business records, etc. This is the only way to obtain an accurate picture of the other party’s actual income available for support. The attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, frequently work with forensic accountants, experts in uncovering hidden income.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SUPPORT RECIPIENT REMARRIES?

Unless the parties specifically agree in their divorce decree that Spousal Support will continue upon the remarriage of the payee party, Spousal Support will cease upon marriage.

WHAT HAPPENS TO SPOUSAL SUPPORT IF ONE PARTY COHABITATES WITH SOMEONE AFTER A SPOUSAL SUPPORT ORDER IS MADE?

Unlike remarriage, which automatically terminates spousal support unless specified in the divorce judgment, a cohabitation situation carries a presumption that the supported party’s needs are reduced. Therefore, it is appropriate for the payor to file a motion to reduce or terminate Spousal Support in such cases. Frequently, a party will attempt to hide the fact that there is a cohabitation situation, requiring investigation and surveillance. At Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, we have a licensed in-house investigator with over 30 years of experience in law enforcement and investigation, who is ready to jump into action and collect the necessary evidence to support your claims of cohabitation.

Find Legal Counsel Today

Any divorce can be an arduous and tedious series of legal proceedings, and your divorce may pose complex financial issues that affect your life for years to come. Every divorce is unique, and it’s essential to have legal representation capable of handling the details of your case as effectively as possible. Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, has years of experience representing Orange County, CA, clients in their divorce proceedings. We have successfully handled all types of divorces, including those that involve complex spousal support agreements.

Whether you expect to pay or receive spousal support from your divorce, we can help you ensure the fairest possible outcome. If you are ready to discuss your case with an experienced and reliable Orange County spousal support attorney, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team and learn more about the legal services we offer.

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