For some couples, divorce (it’s legally called a “dissolution of marriage”) can be exceedingly complicated in the state of California. If you are divorcing in or near Contra Costa County, you must have sound legal advice and the services of an experienced Walnut Creek spousal support attorney.

Alimony (it’s legally called “spousal support”) arrangements are commonly a part of a divorce settlement. Alimony arrangements usually work fine at first. But circumstances can change.

How are alimony obligations affected in this state if one ex-spouse is cohabiting or getting remarried? Keep reading – especially if you’re considering a divorce. You’ll learn what you need to know about alimony and about how remarriage and cohabitation affect alimony payments.

HOW ARE ALIMONY PAYMENTS MADE IN THIS STATE?

When a married couple divorces in this state, the court may order one ex-partner to make alimony payments to the other. In most cases, alimony payments are monthly, but it may also be paid by lump sum, a property transfer, or by the direct payment of expenses such as mortgages.

California courts award alimony payments to provide financial assistance to a low-earning or unemployed ex-spouse, based on each ex-partner’s current financial situation.

The spouse who files for divorce must also file a comprehensive financial disclosure when the divorce papers are filed or within the following sixty days. The other partner then files a disclosure statement, either with the response to the divorce papers or within the next sixty days.

The failure of either spouse to disclose a property, an asset, or an income source could lead to considerable legal penalties.

CAN ALIMONY PAYMENTS LAST FOR LIFE?

Some alimony arrangements are temporary and have an established end date. If no end date is specified in the final court order or in a settlement agreement, alimony – in some cases – conceivably could continue until one ex or the other passes away.

When the ex who receives the alimony payments gets remarried, that person may no longer need the financial support that alimony provides. Thus, in California, the alimony obligation automatically ends when the ex who is receiving the payments gets remarried.

According to Walnut Creek spousal support attorney Mujdah Rahim, “Alimony automatically terminates upon the party receiving spousal support remarriage. Where the issue arises is where the party receiving spousal support does not disclose their remarriage to the payor spouse. If the payor spouse finds out and wishes to receive credit for those months spousal support was paid while the other party was married, a motion needs to be filed with the court unless an agreement can be reached without court intervention.”

But what if the ex who is receiving alimony does not get married but instead lives with a new partner in a cohabitation arrangement, sharing expenses and incomes in the manner of a married couple? Is that ex-spouse still entitled to alimony payments?

If the divorce order and the marital settlement agreement are silent regarding cohabitation, the parties may need to have a court – and California state law – resolve the matter.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE LEGAL HELP YOU NEED?

If you are planning to divorce or if you anticipate a divorce in California, or if you are involved in a post-divorce dispute over spousal support, child custody, child support, or a related matter, you must be advised and represented by a spousal support attorney.

As mentioned previously, when a spouse who receives alimony payments in California gets remarried, the payments end automatically.

However, if a spouse who receives alimony payments is cohabiting, or if that person’s income increases for some other reason, the spouse who is making the alimony payments may need to request a modification of the original court order regarding alimony.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE A COURT ORDER FOR SPOUSAL SUPPORT?

If you make alimony payments and your ex is cohabiting (or that person’s income has increased for another reason), ask your ex to agree to reduce or end your alimony payments. If the ex agrees, you can both sign the agreement, and the court will almost certainly “sign off” on it.

You will need an experienced California spousal support lawyer to file the legal papers and to ensure that there are no misunderstandings or mistakes in the paperwork or the process.

If your cohabiting ex will not agree to let you reduce your alimony payments or to stop payments altogether, your attorney can file a motion asking the court to modify the alimony arrangement to reduce or stop your payments.

Your lawyer will need to explain to the court precisely how circumstances have changed since the original alimony order was issued and why that change requires a modification or an end to the alimony payments.

WHEN WILL CALIFORNIA COURTS MODIFY A SPOUSAL SUPPORT ORDER?

For what reasons will California courts consider a modification of a spousal support order? A new marriage or child, a cohabitation arrangement, a relocation, an illness, unemployment, and a criminal conviction are among the reasons why a court may modify a spousal support order.

California law “presumes” that alimony payments may be reduced or ended when the ex who receives the alimony is cohabiting, but that legal presumption is “rebuttable,” so the person who receives the alimony is given a chance to prove that there is a continuing need for the payments.

Courts do not consider the income of an ex-spouse’s cohabitation partner. The court considers only the ex-partner’s new financial situation. Cohabitation may mean a romantic relationship, but even in a roommate situation, the court may still decide to modify the alimony arrangement.

In most cases, an ex-spouse should not expect to pay or receive alimony for life. Even when a marriage has lasted longer than a decade and alimony payments are ordered at the time of the divorce, a court may terminate the payments at a later time based on a change of circumstances.

Your ex has no need to receive alimony payments if he or she can support himself or herself.

HOW DOES DIVORCE WORK IN CALIFORNIA?

A California divorce is a “no-fault” divorce. No one has to prove that anyone is at-fault. At least one spouse must reside in California for six months before he or she may file for divorce, and that spouse must also live for at least three months in the county where divorce papers are filed.

A California divorce takes at least six months from the date when the non-filing partner is served with the divorce papers. Property acquired during the marriage is community property that will be divided equitably by the court – unless the parties can come to their own agreement.

If you have concerns or questions regarding alimony payments or any other aspect of divorce, or if you need to have an original spousal support order modified, speak at once to a qualified Walnut Creek spousal support attorney. If you are divorcing, a good lawyer’s help is imperative.