Articles Posted in Spousal Support

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One of the first questions I am asked about child or spousal support it, “How will I be paid my support?” My answer is always the same “depends.” In fact, “It depends” is my answer to most legal questions. In the case of support payments, it really depends on what you and the other party want to do. You can either choose direct payment or a wage assignment.

Direct Payment

Direct payment is just as the name implies. The support payor pays the support payee directly. Continue reading

Just_divorced

California judges can make so many different types of spousal support orders, it can make a lawyers’ head spin, let alone the actual parties to a divorce. For instance, many people need help understanding the difference between a $0 spousal support order and an order where the Court terminates jurisdiction to award support (it turns out, there can be a huge difference). Let’s go over each type of spousal support order a Court can make.

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couples-rightsAs divorce attorneys, it is often useful to recall the reasons that people get married in the first place. We may try not to be cynical of the union of marriage, but it is easier said than done when every day is spent helping people navigate through their divorces. And, especially in light of the monumental victories that have recently come for same sex couples and the right to marry, it may be a better time than ever to take a step back and examine some of the reasons why people may decide to get married, or why people ever fought for the right to marry.

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10-year-marriage-spousal-supportIf you are going through or have gone through a divorce in California you’ve probably figured out that the length of marriage becomes very important and can become a hotly contested issue at divorce time. While the length of marriage is relevant for a number of issues in divorce litigation, there is special and controversial significance in relation to spousal support. This is because, under the family code, the future of spousal support may follow a very different course once a marriage hits the 10-year mark, as opposed to a marriage that lasted less than 10 years. This particular magic number comes into play because under the family code, a marriage of 10 years or more is presumed to be a marriage of “long duration” (more commonly referred to as a long-term marriage). (FC 4336)

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enforcing-support-order

There are two types of support in Family Law cases in California. There is child support, which refers to support intended to assist in providing for the needs of the children involved in the case. Then there is spousal support, sometimes called “Alimony” (The two terms are interchangeable) which is intended to provide spousal maintenance after a divorce proceeding is initiated. During the course of a case, the court may make an order for either, or both, child and spousal support. After the order has been made, the court expects the amounts to be paid.

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annulment-divorce

When the marriages of most couples become irretrievably broken, the most common way to end these marriages is to file for divorce. However, certain extenuating circumstances call for annulling the marriage rather than dissolving it.

There are two distinct categories of marriages in the context of nullities. There are marriages that are void and there are marriages that are voidable.

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Manimony

Megan Fox may pay “manimony”…shows us alimony isn’t just for the ladies anymore!

After a 5 year marriage, Megan Fox filed for divorce from Brian Austin Green in August. While there has been much speculation since then as to whether Fox would be on the hook for spousal support, it seems that Green has just confirmed the possibility by his response filed September 29, 2015, on which he reportedly checked that magic little box requesting spousal support be paid to him by Fox.

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Living-separate-under-one-roof.JPGIn Marriage of Davis, the Supreme Court of California was asked to decide the following question: can spouses truly be “living separate and apart” within the meaning of Family Code section 771(a) if they share the same residence? The Court, in a unanimous decision, held that spouses cannot be separated if they share the same residence.

In Davis, the parties seem to agree that their marriage was “over” sometime around June of 2006. However, they continued to reside together, for the sake of their children, until 2011. The wife contended that the date of separation was in 2006, while Husband, relying on the fact that wife did not move out until 2011, argued a date of separation in 2011.

supreme-court.jpgThe Court’s decision came down to statutory interpretation. The Court held that, on its face, the plain meaning of the term “living separate and apart” required a physical separation. To the extent there was some ambiguity in the statute, the Court noted that the term “living separate and apart” had not been altered in subsequent iterations of the statute since 1870. The Court also noted that, in 1870, “living separate and apart” required that the wife establish “her own place of residence.”

The Court did not address, and therefore did not foreclose the possibility, that spouses could live separate and apart in separate residences while “they continued to literally share one roof.” For now, what this means exactly is up to the lower courts, or possibly the legislature.

Determining the date of separation can be critically important in many family law cases. As the community exists only between the date of marriage and the date of separation, it is only after the parties separate that they begin to accumulate separate property. If the parties aren’t separated, the spouse will, for instance, continue to have a one-half interest in the other spouse’s earnings. Over the course of many years, this can make a difference of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The date of separation is also important in spousal support, as the duration of spousal support heavily depends upon the length of the marriage.

If you have questions about what the date of separation is in your case, it is important that you discuss your rights with an experienced family law attorney.
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In recent years, same-sex marriage has undergone a radical transformation in California and in the rest of the nation. The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford is well aware of these important changes in the law.

On June 16, 2008, the Supreme Court of California held that California’s same-sex marriage ban was not permitted under the California constitution. On November 5, 2008, however, the California electorate amended the California constitution through Proposition 8. This reinstated the same-sex marriage ban in California.

On August 4, 2010, United States District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker declared that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional under the Federal (not California) constitution. However, through appeal, the order was stayed until the United States Supreme Court reinstated Judge Walker’s ruling on technical grounds in Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Hollingsworth v. Perry opinion was issued on June 26, 2013 and allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

same-sex-divorce-gavel.jpgOn that same date, the United States Supreme Court issued the landmark Windsor v. United States decision, striking down language in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that limited the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples. Before Windsor v. United States, same-sex couples throughout the nation were deprived of many federal benefits opposite sex couples enjoyed. Justice Kennedy, describing some of these benefits, wrote as follows in the majority opinion:

“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound. It prevents same-sex married couples from obtaining government healthcare benefits they would otherwise receive… It deprives them of the Bankruptcy Code’s special protections for domestic-support obligations … It forces them to follow a complicated procedure to file their state and federal taxes jointly … It prohibits them from being buried together in veterans’ cemeteries.”

After the Windsor decision, same-sex married couples did not face these burdens in California or other states that allowed same-sex marriage. However, it was not until June 26, 2015 that the Supreme Court ruled that all same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional in Obergefell v. Hodges. This has a practical effect for same-sex couples in California that were already married: they can now freely move to any other state and that state will be required to recognize the marriage. This was an unsettled issue until Obergefell.

There are still unique issues that same-sex couples face. For example, what happens when a same-sex couple had a domestic partnership and then married after it became legal to do so in California? Does this couple have to both terminate the domestic partnership and dissolve the marriage? In cases like this, what is the length of the “marriage” for purposes of spousal support?
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New-Job-support-orders.jpgIf you’re a big fan of the “Simpson’s” you may have heard that Harry Shearer, the voice of several of the shows iconic characters, is leaving the show. When a big star makes a movie or a star leaves a television show it usually makes the news, but people retire, change jobs, or are laid off on a daily basis. What do you do if you are involved in a Family Law proceeding and your income changes?

A change in your career can have far reaching effects on many aspects of your Family Law case, but it most immediately applicable to both child and spousal support orders. If there is a current order in place, it should tell you the protocol for informing your spouse of a change in your financial circumstances, but just informing your spouse may not protect you if your ability to pay your support award is compromised. Conversely, if you are receiving support and your ex-spouses income increases you may not be entitled to the increase solely because you are informed of the change.

Even when a change in income occurs, the court can usually only enforce the current order it has on file. Therefore, whether you need to reap the benefit of increased income or reduce the burden of an order you can no longer afford, you need to file the request with the court to modify your support to match your current financial circumstances. The court will then make a ruling in keeping with you and your ex spouse’s current financial situation.

Of course financial issues always become complex if one party is self-employed and/or owns a business, and it may require a more in depth analysis. The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford is experienced in representing clients in all aspects of any financial issues that come before the Family Court and we are experienced in dealing with the complexity of self-employed parties and business owners.
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