3 Debunkable Myths About California Spousal Support

3 Debunkable Myths About California Spousal Support

Myths are widely-held beliefs that are actually incorrect. Even California divorces face a few myths, especially about spousal support. Fortunately, those myths are easy to debunk using California divorce laws.

Myth #1 – All Women Receive Spousal Support

This belief is false. According to California law, the court may consider the following factors when deciding whether either party will receive spousal support:

  • Each party’s ability to earn a living.
  • Whether one party helped the other party with education, training, career opportunities, and obtaining licenses necessary for employment.
  • If the supporting party makes enough money to pay spousal support.
  • The standard of living each party enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Each party’s obligations and assets, including their separate property.
  • How long the marriage lasted.
  • Whether the supported spouse can work without hurting the couple’s dependent children.
  • The parties’ age and health.
  • Whether the couple has a history of domestic violence, including actions taken against their children.
  • Any tax consequences the parties may face.
  • Whether the supported party can eventually become self-supporting.
  • Whether one party has a criminal conviction for abuse against the other.

The courts may decide not to give spousal support to a woman based on the factors listed above.

Myth #2 – Only Women Can Receive Spousal Support

Also easily debunked. California law does not state that women can receive support under the circumstances listed above. Instead, it refers to the parties to the divorce.

For example, it is uncommon for wives who earn more than their husbands to receive support payments. In fact, they may be ordered to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands if the conditions are right.

Myth #3 – Marriages of Over 10 Years Guarantee Spousal Support

This is a common misunderstanding. California law does mention marriages of long duration, which means marriages of 10 years or more.

However, the law states that the court “retains jurisdiction” indefinitely for marriages that meet the long duration test. Whether a party receives spousal support or not is still determined by the court’s consideration of the factors listed in Myth #1 above.

Learn More About Your California Spousal Support Options

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including spousal support. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Getting Spousal Support in a Registered Domestic Partnership

Getting Spousal Support in a Registered Domestic Partnership

Ending a long-term or very close relationship is never easy. Spousal support is one sometimes hotly contested issue in a divorce. If spousal support is appropriate, then how much should be paid? This holds true for registered domestic partnerships, too. Partners embroiled in a breakup may also be facing spousal support questions.

How is a domestic partnership registered in California?

Couples who want to have an opposite-sex marriage must get a marriage license from the County Clerk’s office. Same-sex couples, and certain opposite-sex couples, do not buy a license to memorialize their relationship. Instead, they file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State’s office. California Family Code Section 297 outlines the requirements for couples who form a domestic partnership.

To terminate or dissolve a registered domestic partnership, the partners may file a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership, also with the Secretary of State. Requirements for termination are laid out in California Family Code Section 299.

Can you get spousal support in a registered domestic partnership?

Filing the Notice under Section 299 means that both parties waive their rights to spousal support. To claim support, partnership typically must file a Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership with the California Superior Court.

Parties who file a Notice of Termination do not go through court hearings or mediation. When filing a Petition for Dissolution, however, the parties may attend hearings and ask a judge for temporary orders. Support is one issue that will be addressed by the court.

What does a partner need to do to get spousal support?

As noted above, the first step is to file the Petition for Dissolution. After that, the dissolution proceeds similar to a divorce. The partners will negotiate an agreement on community property and debt, arrive at child custody and support arrangements if necessary, and come to an agreement about support. If the partners are unable to do this through negotiation or mediation, their case may be heard by a judge, who will then issue an order about these issues.

Make sure you get the support you deserve.

Please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with dissolution of marriages and domestic partnerships from our offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

2018 Tax Reform’s Effect on Spousal Support

2018 Tax Reform’s Effect on Spousal Support

Often one party to a divorce will pay spousal support to the other party. Methods of calculating spousal support can be complicated. For example, tax treatment of spousal support payments differ for the party paying the support as opposed to the party receiving the support. For people currently divorcing, it’s important to consider the 2018 tax reform’s effect on spousal support.

Income Tax Treatment of Spousal Support

Income taxes for spousal support orders signed prior to 2019 were handled as follows:

  • The spouse who pays the spousal support may use those payments as a tax deduction.
  • The party that receive the spousal support reports the support as taxable income.

In the post-2018 tax reform world, though, things have changed:

  • Payers of spousal support can no longer count those payments as a tax deduction on their federal income tax returns.
  • Recipients do not have to report their spousal support as taxable income.

This seems like an easy change, but it does affect how much tax each party may be expected to pay.

The Tax Reform Effect

One issue is that the payment or receipt of spousal support may move either party into another tax bracket:

  • Recipients may move to lower income tax brackets since they no longer have to report spousal support as income. This could mean they get to keep a greater percentage of their spousal support than people divorced before December 31, 2018.
  • Payers of spousal support, however, will now lose the deduction that some call a divorce subsidy. Their income taxes likely will rise due to the loss of that deduction.

In addition, payers of spousal support may offer lower support payments since those payments are no longer tax deductible. This could adversely affect women, who are more likely to be the recipient of spousal support instead of the payer.

Will Your Spousal Support Be Affected by 2018 Tax Reform?

That depends on when your spousal support order was signed. Most orders signed before 2019 will not change, at least related to income taxes. However, support judgments that go into effect in 2019 will adhere to the new tax laws.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

In a previous blog, we talked about finances for women going through a divorce. Now, it’s the men’s turn. The divorce experience is as different for men and women as, well, men and women. Nowhere is that more apparent than in family finances. Even though men tend to fare better financially than women post-divorce, it is still important to consider some financial tips for men who are going through a divorce.

Learn Everything You Can About Your Finances

It may be difficult to negotiate a reasonable divorce settlement if you don’t know what’s involved. What bank accounts do you and your spouse have? How much debt do you have? Did you or your wife take the leading role in financial decisions. Make sure you know where you stand.

Make an Inventory of All Property

At this point, don’t worry about whether it is community property or separate property. Account for cash, bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and other assets. Prepare a list that is as complete as possible. Then put it in a safe place.

Explore Spousal Support Options

Some men resist paying spousal support. The reasons vary. Sometimes the husband took a greater role in financially supporting the family while the wife focused on home and children. Others may be worried they won’t have enough money to live on.

Some men resist receiving spousal support. In divorce cases where the wife makes more money than the husband, or where the husband takes an increased child custody role, the wife may pay spousal support to the husband.

Prepare for Child Support

Whether you will pay and how much depends on a number of factors. The judge hearing your divorce case will enter an order for one or both parents to provide a certain amount to cover a child’s living expenses.

Make sure you provide complete and accurate financial disclosures. The court will consider both parents’ net disposable income when deciding on child support.

Hold Off on Impulse Buying

Depression or even a sense of freedom sends some men over the financial deep end. This may not be the best time to buy a boat, go to Vegas, or move cross country. If possible, wait until after the divorce is final before making any big decisions.

Divorce is Hard

An experienced California divorce attorney can help you achieve the best outcome possible. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Financial Tips for Women Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Women Going Through a Divorce

Marcia’s career skyrocketed during her seven year marriage. In fact, she had become the couple’s primary source of income and handled all financial matters. Brittany had decided to provide 24/7 care for the two children she and her husband had during their five year marriage. And Sandra worried that her divorce from Rick after 22 years of marriage would leave her destitute. She had never worked outside the home and trusted her husband to make financial decisions. Though their lives are very different, each of these women would benefit from learning some financial tips for women going through a divorce.

Assess Your Combined Financial Situation

As soon as possible, start looking over your financial accounts and property owned. You can do this before you file the divorce petition or if you even suspect your spouse is considering divorce.

  • Gather all documents related to your finances. Review them carefully. Look for any hidden expenses or evidence of hidden assets.
  • Know what you and/or your spouse own. Prepare a list of assets and store in a safe location. List everything, even property you think might be your spouse’s separate property.
  • Prepare post-divorce budget. This step will help you make informed decisions about your divorce settlement and prepare for your new life.

For women who did not participate in their family’s financial decisions, this step may be difficult. They must learn how to handle finances on their own sooner rather than later.

Build Your Own Credit History

Most women find their credit is intertwined with their husband’s. Some may find it difficult to get a credit card or sign a lease within their husband’s backing. You can take the following steps as you prepare to be single again:

  • Get a copy of your credit report.
  • Open at least one bank account in just your name.
  • Start opening credit cards and applying for credit.

Building your credit history takes time. It may be particularly tough for spouses who have given up a career to care for children.

Think Carefully About Child Support, Spousal Support, and Retirement

In addition to their own concerns, some women may have to worry about providing for their children, supporting themselves after years of being out of the workforce, or having a short window of time to rebuild retirement accounts.

  • Women with children need to focus on child support during negotiations. A consent order may provide temporary child support during the pendency of the divorce.
  • Some women just don’t have the training, experience, and education to find work that provides a sustaining wage. Vocational experts may be needed to assess their earnings potential. Spousal support can help, especially in long-term marriages.
  • Finally, women involved in a gray divorce may have expected to live on hubby’s retirement accounts. Or they built a nest egg that they now have to split with their spouse. Even if they have worked, refilling retirement accounts takes time they may not have.

Get the Advice You Need

Your divorce attorney can help you get through the financial maze. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office will be open soon.

How to Get Temporary Spousal Support or Child Support

How to Get Temporary Spousal Support or Child Support

Often a party to a divorce may be eligible for temporary spousal support, temporary child support, or both. Calculating the amounts due can be a complicated process. Though this is not a comprehensive list, courts may consider some of these factors when calculating support:

  • Earning capacity, including employability and ability to work without harming dependent children;
  • Future earning capacity of a party who chose caring for family over pursuing a career,
  • Contributions made by one spouse toward the education or training of the other,
  • Ability to pay spousal support while maintaining a standard of living,
  • Community and separate obligations and assets,
  • Length of marriage,
  • Age and health of each spouse,
  • Domestic violence claims,
  • Tax consequences to the parties,
  • Criminal convictions, and
  • Any other factors the court considers to be important.

One thing to remember is that temporary spousal support and child support are not granted automatically. You have to ask for them.

Applying for Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support can be requested if you have an open case for divorce, legal separation, or a domestic violence restraining order. Your attorney can help you complete and file the following forms to request temporary spousal support or child support:

  • Request for Order, and
  • Income and Expense Declaration.

After filing your papers, you will have someone else serve a copy on your spouse, along with two other documents:

  • Responsive Declaration to Request for Order, and
  • Income and Expense Declaration.

Then you and your attorney will file a document stating that your spouse was served. At the hearing, the judge will sign an order stating whether you get temporary spousal support and how much.

Applying for Temporary Child Support

You must have opened one of the following cases to request temporary child support:

  • If married or a registered domestic partner – a divorce, legal separation, annulment, domestic violence restraining order, petition for custody, or local child support agency case.
  • If not married or a domestic partner –a parentage (paternity) case, domestic violence restraining order, petition for custody and support of minor children, local child support agency case.

This process is similar to requesting temporary spousal support. However, make sure you serve copies with the local child support agency if they are involved.

As with spousal support, the judge enters a court order. After the hearing, the process is slightly different. You’ll need to prepare a Notice of Rights and Responsibilities – Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures. Each parent will also complete a Child Support Case Registry Form

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone.

Navigating divorce court can be distressing. We’re here to help. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office is opening soon.

The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

Jack and Diane’s marriage lasted much longer than the average marriage. But after 32 years, they decided to call it quits. They knew their adult children would be fine, but really had no idea how their long-term marriage would affect their divorce settlement.

Divorce Settlements, in General.

The parties to a divorce agree on a divorce settlement, or the court irons out the details for them. Typically, such settlements include custody and visitation agreements, child support, division of assets and debts, and spousal support.

For issues involving children, courts look for an arrangement that best suits the children’s needs.

When it comes to assets and debts, California is a community property state. This means that a couple’s debts and property are generally considered to be owned 50-50, although there are exceptions.

Spousal support is based on factors like:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Whether the supported party contributed to supporting party’s career.
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
  • Each spouse’s needs.
  • Each spouse’s assets and obligations.
  • The duration of marriage.
  • Whether supported spouse can work without harming children.

This is not the complete list contained in the California Family Code 4320. However, in this blog, we are looking at how people married for over 10 years fare in a divorce. The length of the marriage is only one factor in negotiating a settlement.

So, What’s Different About Long-Term Marriages?

Marriages that last less than 10 years are generally thought of a short-term when it comes to calculating spousal support. When one spouse needs support from the other, courts often give the needy spouse alimony for one half the duration of the marriage. Importantly, the court orders a time period wherein the court can make further decisions related to alimony. For example, for a marriage of 8 years, the supported spouse might receive alimony for 4 years, but the court retains jurisdiction for only 2.

A supported spouse leaving a long-term marriage may receive support for half the duration of the marriage. Courts tend to be more flexible in longer-lasting marriages. As for jurisdiction, the court can make decisions about alimony for this divorce indefinitely. If the supported spouse becomes ill while receiving support, the court could order additional support after taking all factors into consideration.

Years Can Make a Difference.

If you’re facing divorce, how long you remained married influences your divorce settlement. However, courts are not required to abide by a 10-year rule. It’s just a very common measurement. It’s best to speak with an attorney to make sure you receive everything to which you are entitled.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
spousal support taxes

How is Spousal Support Taxed?

After months of uncertainty the court finally entered a judgment in your divorce proceedings. To your relief, the judgment included a spousal support order and you’ve been receiving payments from your former spouse for about a year. The payments have come in handy and you’ve used that money for important household bills. All is well until your accountant calls to tell you that you owe hundreds of dollars in taxes. Unfortunately, when you started receiving spousal support, you didn’t realize that you would be taxed on those payments. This is a mistake that could cost you thousands.

Taxation is an important consideration that is often overlooked regarding spousal support. Both the party ordered to pay spousal support and the person receiving the support should be aware of the tax consequences of the support award in order to prepare for any tax ramifications once payments begin. Ideally, both federal and state tax implications should be considered during divorce or separation proceedings so a spousal support agreement may be reached that minimizes the tax consequences for all parties involved.

There are both federal and state tax implications for spousal support awards. Usually, spousal support is tax deductible for the person who is paying spousal support. The spousal support payments received by the supported spouse are considered to be taxable income. This is only the case for couples who have a final court order. If a couple does not have a final court order of legal separation or divorce, spousal support payments are considered gifts for tax purposes which are not deductible for the paying party nor considered income for the receiving party.

For federal tax purposes, strict IRS guidelines must be followed for the spousal support payments to be tax-deductible. The support payments must be 1) authorized by a court order for divorce or legal separation; 2) in cash; 3) not part of a property division or child support payment; and 4) paid only while the spouses are not members of the same household. 

Each state has its own guidelines for taxation of spousal support. In California, spousal support is tax-deductible for the paying spouse and taxable for the receiving spouse, as long as the spouses file separate state tax returns. 

The law is more complicated when it relates to partner support.  Federal tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partners and states other than California may not have laws that consider the legal validity of a domestic partnership. A California attorney experienced with issues relating to domestic partnerships can advise you on the federal and state tax implications of a partner support award. 


When seeking a spousal support award, it is imperative to retain an attorney who is knowledgeable about how to structure support awards to ensure the best possible tax benefits.   The knowledgeable attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced with spousal and partner support awards and the tax implications.  Call us now at (415) 293-8314 to schedule your private appointment regarding your California divorce case or visit us online to find out more about how we can help.
spousal support in California

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

A party to a divorce or separation case in California may request that the court order support as part of a final divorce or separation decree.  For a spousal or partner support award, one party petitions the court to request that the other party support him or her during the pendency of proceedings and after.  But questions sometimes arise regarding how long these support awards last and the factors the court considers. 

The length of a marriage is one of the primary factors that a court considers when fashioning a permanent spousal support award and determining a time period. Under California Family Code 4320, the court’s goal is that a supported party will be able to support themselves within a “reasonable period of time.” Generally that is considered to be one-half of the length of the entire marriage. So if a marriage lasted 8 years, a spousal support award may last for 4 years. This is not a requirement, however, under California law a judge can order that a spousal support award last for as long as the judge deems necessary. 

There is an important exception.  California Family Code Section 4336 deals with a marriage or partnership of a “long duration” (usually 10 years or more).  In this case, the judge may not set an end date to the spousal or partner support and will retain jurisdiction for an indefinite period of time. 

The calculation of the length of the marriage or domestic partnership is generally from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. The date of separation is important when deciding issues of spousal or partner support.  If the parties in a divorce or separation case can’t agree on the date of separation, the judge may have to decide the date for them.  The judge may also consider periods of separation when determining if a marriage is of “long duration” under California law.

Spousal support usually ends on the date decreed by the court in the final order or judgment. It can also end when one of the spouses or domestic partners dies or when the person receiving the support remarries or registers a new domestic partnership.


As detailed above, spousal and partner support involves complicated legal issues and date complications. Arguments may need to be submitted to the court regarding dates of separation as these can have a significant impact on the amount of a support award.  If you are facing divorce or separation proceedings you need a knowledgeable and experienced California divorce attorney to fight for your rights. Visit our website to learn more or call us today at (415) 293-8314 to set up a personal, confidential consultation.

“Africa Diamond Scam” Case Differentiates Alimony and Property Settlement

Marriage is a beautiful thing, and for some people, it is the key to long-lasting happiness and even personal wealth. But even the beauty of marriage can wilt and wither, and what was once a happy flourishing relationship can turn to separation and divorce. In those cases, no amount of money can buy back the happiness of the relationship, and the division of property that is the marker of a relationship ended ensues. When a marriage ends, it often brings with it issues of spousal support – and that spousal support can take different forms.

Alimony is the form of spousal support that most people are familiar with – it is the payment if funds from one spouse to the other for ongoing maintenance. Alimony is designed to allow a recipient spouse to take care of himself or herself. Property settlement, on the other hand, is the division of the assets of the marriage. It is the separation of those things that the marriage has jointly acquired between the two individuals as they move in separate directions.

These two concepts seem similar but have different consequences for tax purposes. Generally speaking, property settlement has few to no tax consequences. Alimony, on the other hand, is taxable as income to the receiving party and deductible as an expense by the paying party. The different treatment does not change whether you are dealing with a multi-million dollar marriage or something much smaller, though the tax amount varies considerably.

The recent Enron case interestingly has even touched the world of divorce and the separation of property with that goes along with it. Byron Georgiou, an attorney associated with the case, entered into a divorce just prior to the completion of that case. Pursuant to the divorce agreement, his ex-wife was to be entitled to 10% of the fees he received from the case. When the case settled, Byron was awarded $55 million in fees. His ex-wife, Maria Leslie, was therefore entitled to $5 million. The language of the marital settlement agreement had placed the provision related to the fee award in the section of the agreement related to division of property. It then used language that clearly identified it as spousal support that was intended to be taxable income for the wife.

The responsibility to pay taxes is a serious one, and the United States Tax Court does not make exceptions based on mental health or divorce. Ms. Leslie was recently in front of them for failure to pay taxes. She had multiple arguments regarding the amount of taxes she was due and for which tax year. Leslie had been scammed for $400,000.00 in an African diamond scam, and the issues before the court related to whether the funds were intended as spousal support or were instead a division of marital property.

Leslie was fortunate to have the court find that money she had been swindled in the scam was properly considered a theft loss that she could legally write off. However, the court also found that the income she received from her ex-husband’s participation in the Enron litigation was taxable income to her. The court found that the language in the agreement identified it as such, even though it was in the section of the agreement on property settlement and even though it did not include any provision for termination at the time of her death.

Teasing out whether support is intended to serve as alimony or as a property settlement can have major consequences for both spouses. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to make sure your divorce papers are handled by an experienced attorney who is an expert in California divorce law. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger today to learn how our attorneys can help in your case: (415) 293-8314.