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Permanent Alimony Continues to Haunt Divorced Couples

The expression “til death do you part” may most commonly be associated with married couples, but because of permanent alimony orders, it can apply to divorced couples as well.

As the term suggests, permanent alimony is an award paid by one spouse to another after they divorce and until the end of their or their ex-partner’s natural life. Decades ago when one spouse would need to stay at home to raise the children and was unable to work, this type of alimony could widely be applied to most divorce situations. However, in today’s world, both divorced parties are often able to support themselves without the economic assistance of the other.

The “Permanent Alimony Trap”

One individual, going by the pseudonym Jane Carter, recently shared a story to the media that seems to be familiar to many. Her husband separated from his first wife in 2003, at which time he paid alimony of $90,000 a year. When the divorce was finalized in 2005, the alimony payment was reduced to $81,000.

There are two issues that Carter and her husband now face:

  1. Permanent alimony is typically 30% of an individual’s income. Currently the $81,000 a year is 57% of Carter’s husband’s income
  1. The lawyer handling the ex-wife’s modification proceeding is now attempting to find out how much money Carter has in the bank to determine a higher alimony payment

Permanent Alimony: Is It Really Permanent?

With a growing number of divorced couples now both being able to support themselves financially, a large number of states have abandoned, or at least reformed, the law. However, permanent alimony does still exist in the state of California.

How Is Permanent Alimony Determined?

To determine the value of an alimony payment, a variety of factors must be considered:

  • The earning capacity of an individual and his or her ability to maintain the same standard of living after marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • A spouse’s current health and age
  • How much the supported party contributed to the current earning capacity of the supporting party (i.e. attainment of education or training, licensing, and/or career position)
  • An individual’s ability to pay alimony

In the case of Carter and her husband, who is now earning less than he was when the permanent alimony amount was settled in 2005, a modification is certainly in order.

This is when a skilled permanent alimony attorney should be sought for legal counsel. The qualified team of family lawyers at Fischer & Van Thiel have helped individuals both modify existing permanent alimony orders as well as attain them during and after a divorce. We invite you to call us today to discuss your specific situation at (858) 935-6211.

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