Child & Spousal Support
Financial assistance is available to parties in a family law action as child support and spousal support (alimony). While child support does not require the parties be married, or even the natural parents, spousal support is available only to married parties or domestic partners.
This form of financial obligation for one’s children is available to parents, guardians, and as reimbursement to governmental agencies (i.e, Department of Child Support Services). The amount of the support is determined by a very complex mathmatical formula set forth by the legislature. In essence, it is a “net tax” figure taking into consideration the gross income of each parent, their respective tax obligations, and the percentage of time each parent has responsibility for the children. The calculation is made by computer (usually Dissomaster), which is referred to as “guideline” support. Except in hardship cases, or the parties’ agreement otherwise, the court is required to order the guideline amount.
Most people will need a lawyer for child support if for no other reason than to run the computer calculation. However, it is the experienced child support attorney that will be able to help you determine a non-guideline (or “stipulated”) amount that each party can live with and agree to.
Spousal support law is complicated. While it is available to married parties, or domestic partners, it is not a guaranteed right for either party. The purpose for the support is to provide financial relief for the lesser earning spouse so as to maintain the marital standard of living as much as possible for both parties . Of course, this is often an unrealistic and/or impossible prospect for the average family who are now having to support two households when before there was only one.
Entitlement is based on a multitude of factors to be considered by the court. In the beginning phase of a divorce, temporary support is determined using a computer program (often referred to as Dissomaster), based on an assessment of each party’s respective earnings and taxes. Later, it must be calculated upon the court’s review of a very long list of criteria set forth by the legislature, usually following a costly trial. In addition, the court will have to decide the duration for payment of support. In marriages under 10 years, it is usually half the duration of the marriage. In marriages over than 10 years, it is up to the court.
The best possible situation is for the parties to come to an agreement as to both the amount and the duration of spousal support. It is at this point, that the sound legal advice of your spousal support attorney is most valuable to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trial.