Alimony, Child Support, Property Division, a Financial Trifecta in San Diego Divorces

Massachusetts has passed a landmark law regarding alimony payments, The Wall Street Journal reports. The new law aims to end lifetime payments, particularly in retirement or once a former spouse finds a new partner.

Divorcing couples should know and understand the distinct differences between child support and alimony or spousal support in San Diego. Spousal support is generally treated as taxable income for the receiver and as a tax deduction for the payer. Child support is tax free for the recipient but not deductible for the payer. 1064586_time_is_money_2.jpg

Child support may be more collectible than spousal support — i.e. the court system may be more likely to enforce the court’s orders. And, of course, as we reported this summer on our San Diego Divorce Attorneys Blog, cohabitation or remarriage generally does not impact child support payments in San Diego or elsewhere in California. That is not necessarily true of alimony or spousal support.

Spousal support can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis. Temporary spousal support usually covers the period of time between separation and when a divorce ends. Permanent alimony is typically awarded based on the length of the marriage. A short-term marriage in California, one lasting less than 10 years, may result in an alimony award lasting up to half the length of the marriage. In long-term marriages, judges are given great discretion and payments may be awarded indefinitely.

Together with the initial property awarded to each spouse, the trifecta will go a long way toward determining your future quality of life.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the recession has brought the contentious issue of long-term alimony to a boiling point. Statistics show unemployment has hit males the hardest. And, as the Baby Boomer generation hits the gates to retirement, many former husbands are looking to reduce or eliminate payments. The Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled lifetime alimony was inappropriate if a woman was in good health, had a stable job and had received considerable assets during a division of property. And Florida recently set a higher bar for permanent spousal support awards.

The new law in Massachusetts takes effect next March. Those paying lifetime alimony can apply for modifications beginning in 2013. For women counting on these payments in retirement, a reversal could be financially devastating. The New York Times reports the Massachusetts law calls for alimony for up to half the length of a marriage lasting less than five years. For long-term marriages — those lasting 15 to 20 years — payments could last for up to 80 percent of the length of the marriage.

Your attorney needs to work toward a divorce agreement that adequately provides in all three areas: property division, spousal support and child support. The pros and cons of each award must be weighed with the client’s financial future in mind.

San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who also is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights during a divorce or child custody case. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Additional Resources:
Massachusetts Sets Limits on Alimony, By Jennifer Levitz, The Wall Street Journal.

Suit over Identification of Marital Property Highlights Need for Experienced Divorce Lawyer in San Diego, San Diego Divorce Attorneys Blog, August 4, 2011.