Spousal Support: Pendente Lite, Permanent, Post Judgment Modification

Spousal support (or alimony) often times is a very difficult and highly negotiable matter that requires legal support. Like child support, the spouse or domestic partner who needs the support does not automatically receive it, even after the separation becomes official.

It takes one spouse or domestic partner to ask the court for an order. Taking these steps can be an overwhelming process, which is why representation from family law specialist, Kara Holtz, and some legal know-how is invaluable.

Alimony: What You Need to Know

After or during legal separation, the court may order one of the spouse’s or domestic partner’s to pay the other a monthly installment. We call this “spousal support” for married couples, and “partner support” for domestic partners. Depending on the spouse’s or domestic partner’s needs, the support may be temporary (pendente lite) or permanent.

Why Spousal Support Is Necessary

The goal of spousal support is to financially help a spouse or domestic partner get back on his or her feet. Ideally, the length of support is around half of the marriage or partnership. However, it is a case-by-case basis; the judge considers several factors to determine the specific amount and length of time, some of which include:

  • The spouse’s or domestic partner’s current skills
  • How marketable those skills are in the current job market
  • Length of time spouse or domestic partner was unemployed or unable to work during the marriage or partnership
  • How much education and/or training the spouse or domestic partner needs to get the necessary skills to secure a job

Post Judgement Modification: When Circumstances Change

Similar to child support, the original spousal support order is subject to post judgement modification (change in the original order). This normally happens when circumstances change in either spouses’ or partners’ lives:

  • The spouse or partner who gets the support does not need it anymore
  • The spouse or partner who gets the support is not taking steps to become self-sufficient
  • The person who pays the temporary or permanent spousal support is either not paying it outright or only pays portions of it
  • The person paying spousal support lost his or her job
  • The person paying spousal support has an increase or decrease in income


image of a dollar bill reflecting on a white table with a white brick wall in the back, holtz law spousal support

No matter what the circumstances are, one or both parties now are not satisfied with the original order. To change the order, one of the spouses or partners must ask the judge to modify it. A modification hearing is set, where the judge listens to both parties’ cases and considers the changing circumstances.

One Common Assumption Demystified

Until the judge signs the new spousal support order, the original one is still effective. This means that, despite any changes (e.g. job loss, change in income, etc.), the spouse or partner who pays alimony must continue to pay the agreed-upon amount. Not doing so, could result in serious legal ramifications.

Taxes for Partner Support

The tax laws around spousal and partner support are messy, to say the least. Although the state of California recognizes domestic partnerships, the federal and state tax laws do not. Domestic partners who pay and receive partner support may not get a taxable income or tax deduction from it. That is not to say this is a clear black-and-white legal issue—in fact, far from it.

Legal Support

Getting the fair spousal and partner support you deserve is necessary. For legal support in Northern California, from San Rafael to Redwood, the lawyers at Holtz Law can help!