Last week, Megan Fox officially filed for divorce from husband Brian Austin Green. The two had just announced they were separating days earlier.
Though it’s unclear why the couple is splitting, according to sources, the two have been separated for the last six months. The couple met 11 years ago on the set of ABC’s Hope & Faith. While the two made quick plans to get married, that was put on hold because the two felt that Fox, who was 18 when they met, was too young to really consider marriage. Green proposed again in 2010, and 24 days later the two were married in Hawaii.
While the two did not sign a prenuptial agreement, it seems that Fox will be paying spousal support to Green, who has been unable to work because of a car accident the two were involved in last December.
What is Alimony / Spousal Support?
Alimony, often called “spousal support” is when one spouse pays the other in order to help that spouse maintain the same financial standing as was experienced during the marriage. A court will require the higher earning spouse to assist the lower in maintaining that standard of lifestyle that was achieved during the marriage.
Awarding Spousal Support
In California a judge can award temporary (“pendente lite”) support either during the divorce proceedings, or when the divorce is declared final. Typically these payments are made from one spouse to the other in a specified amount for a predetermined period of time. But support can also be paid in a single lump-sum payment. In collaborative process divorce agreements, spouses often come to agreement on the terms and conditions of support payments. As long as this agreement meets legal requirements, a court will uphold an agreement. This is the case even if the agreement provides for a complete waiver of support to the lower-earning spouse.
Duration of Spousal Support
In California, the duration of spousal support agreements are often tied to the length of the marriage. A general rule of thumb is that for a marriage of less than 10 years, a court will not order support payments be made for longer than half the length of the marriage. But if a marriage has lasted 10 years or longer, a court typically will not set a definite termination date for support. Both spouses are able to request modifications to the spousal support agreement indefinitely, unless a termination date has specifically been agreed, or if the court expressly terminates the support at a later hearing.
Awarding Permanent Support
Sometimes support is labeled “permanent” support, but the actual awarding of permanent support lasting for the remainder of a lifetime is increasingly rare, even for marriages that last over 10 years. Family law courts in California tend to require a spouse seeking support to make an effort to become self-supporting. A spouse that makes claims that they are unable to work, or unable to become fully employed, is required to support the claim with evidence. Often times this means having a vocational evaluation. And for long term support orders, the support often gradually reduces over time by a nominal amount. Permanent support is usually only awarded to spouses that are unable to become self-supporting due to age or disability.
Permanent Spousal Support for Green?
Because permanent spousal support is often awarded to spouses that are disabled, Green could receive permanent spousal support, as it seems he has been unable to work due to an accident the couple was involved in last December.
Calculation of Spousal Support
California law rules that the purpose of awarding temporary spousal support is for preserving the financial status quo, or “standard of living during the marriage” to the greatest extent possible. After a court evaluates and considers the needs of the spouse requesting the support, as well as the ability of the other spouses ability to pay, it can order the temporary spousal support in any amount. Typically, a court will use a common formula for calculating temporary support. One example of this formula is the Santa Clara County formula. This formula comes up with a figure through subtracting 50% of the lower-earner’s net income from 40% of the higher earner’s, and then makes adjustments for tax consequences and child support payments. The California Department of Child Support provides a support calculator for parents of dependent children looking to get a rough estimate of what temporary spousal support payments might look like along with child support payments. A family law attorney will also be able to provide you with a rough idea of what your payments will look like.
Standard of Living
Spousal support’s main purpose is to assist a supported spouse in maintaining a standard of living that was close to that which was attained during the marriage. But the goal is for the spouse receiving the payments to eventually become self-supporting to the greatest extent possible. A court will take the following into account:
- marketable skills of the supported spouse,
- job market for those skills,
- any time or expense the supported spouse will need to acquire education or training for employment or enhanced employability, and
- the extent to which periods of unemployment (due to domestic duties) during the marriage have impaired the supported spouse’s present or future earning capacity.
The court will also consider any other factors, including:
- extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the other spouse’s attainment of education, training, professional licensing or career advancement (this can also mean the extent to which the supported spouse provided and maintained home life while the other spouse was advancing his or her career)
- ability of the supporting spouse to pay support. A court will take into account earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living,
- needs of each party based on what the marital standard of living was,
- each spouse’s obligations and assets, including separate property,
- duration of the marriage,
- ability of a spouse who is also a custodial parent to engage in employment without interfering with the interests of dependent children,
- each spouse’s age and health,
- documented history of domestic violence by either spouse*,
- immediate and specific tax consequences to each spouse (often times tax agreements are figured out during the awarding of spousal support and child support agreements),
- balance of the hardships to each spouse, and
- the goal that the supported spouse will be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. This follows a general rule of thumb presumed to be one-half the length of a marriage (unless the marriage was longer than 10 years).
*California courts do not ordinarily consider conduct when making spousal support determinations. But often times, a court will not award support to a spouse that has a proven history of violence toward the other spouse.
Modification and Termination of Spousal Support
Either spouse can request modification or termination of periodic payments due to a material change in circumstances, unless it has been specified in the spousal support agreement. Absent a written agreement stating otherwise, spousal support terminates on the death of either spouse, or on the remarriage of the recipient.
In addition to paying spousal support, another thing that Fox and Green will need to determine is the custody of the two children they share, Noah, 2, and Bodhi, 18 months. Green has a child from a previous relationship. It appears that Fox has filed for joint physical and legal custody, which means that both her and Green will share full custody.
“Joint Child Custody” means that parents who do not live together still share decision-making responsibilities for, and/or physical control and custody of, the children they have together. This form of custody is able to be awarded to parents that are divorced, separated, no longer living together, and even if they have never lived together. Joint child custody is also the form of custody that is favored by the courts.
Joint Child Custody Arrangements
Joint Child Custody can take various forms, such as:
joint legal custody – where the parents share the decision-making responsibilities.
joint physical custody – where children spend time with each parent separately.
joint legal and physical custody – a combination of the above.
Joint Child Custody – Advantages and Disadvantages
There are advantages and disadvantages to joint child custody. While it ensures children continue contact with both parents, children still need to be shuttled from one parent to the other. This can be a difficult situation for non-cooperative parents, and thus can be a hard situation for children stuck in the middle. Regardless of if parents are cooperative or non-cooperative, it’s crucial that all financial records of groceries, finances associated with a child’s after school activities, medical care, and clothing are kept. In cases where parents argue about these things, a judge will appreciate finely detailed records. If parents can maintain a positive parenting schedule and approach, and keep the child’s best interests in mind, joint custody can be a positive and comforting experience for a child.
A Family Law Attorney
There are a number of things that need to be considered during a divorce: child support, spousal support, marital property division, and other things. Working with a skilled attorney can help ensure you get a fair case. For advice on divorce, child custody determinations, setting up a co-parenting agreement, dividing marital property, and spousal support you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.
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