California alimony
November 21, 2007 10:36 PM   Subscribe

(Asking this for a male friend.) Getting divorced in California. What kind of alimony should I be expected to supply my soon-to-be ex wife? Advice and insights, please!

We have been married for 17 years and have 2 kids, ages ten and 14. I have been (and still am) employed with the same company for 11 years. The soon-to-be-ex does not work and does not have any income at all. We own one house, two cars. I have a 401K an IRA. I opened an IRA for her and contributed some money over the years.

Since this is a long term marriage, I would like to understand what the law considers fair in this instance and what am I expected to pay her and for how long. Also if/how the requirements change as the kids reach certain ages and if either of us remarry, etc.

We are both open to mediation and an amicable agreement (as of now at least :-) ). I need advice on how best to proceed and recommendations on good mediation lawyers in the San Francisco bay area that could help me and provide me with sound advice and professional services.


If you have any specific questions that would make it easier to respond, ask away and I'll try to get the answers for you.
posted by miss lynnster to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Has she ever been employed or is she a stay at home mom? From my understanding, if she's never had a job during the marriage you'd be paying alimony for life unless she remarries. No judge will ever force her to get a job. She's also entitled to half the money deposited in your 401k/IRA for the length of the marriage. There's also child support, the community assets and such.

If there's any chance at an amicable agreement, take it, otherwise the lawyers will take their hefty hefty cut. Also the above situations can be worked out in their own percentages and timeframes if they are agreed upon.
posted by sanka at 10:48 PM on November 21, 2007

Re your support and alimony questions: My partner used to be a reference librarian at the state library of Michigan. I used to e-mail him reference questions sometimes and he'd bring the answers home for me. Once I wanted to know about how much child support would be for a divorced couple, him earning X and her earning Y dollars, for a story I was writing, and he brought home the book that the courts in Michigan use to determine support and alimony--with charts and all that kind of stuff.

I was always amazed at what he could dredge up.

Which is a long way of saying, ask a librarian to help you find this information. Especially a librarian at The California State Library. "Inquiries can be submitted in person, by telephone, fax, or e-mail."

Best of luck to your whole family in this transition.
posted by not that girl at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2007

I really hope you can achieve an amicable divorce. But with kids, real estate, alimony and retirement plans involved, I think you should expect that this will become an adversarial proceeding. Some few candidates for sainthood that I've known have done mediated divorces, but rarely with as much history, baggage, and ongoing parental and support issues as you seem to have. It's much better to take the view that this will be an adversarial process, from the outset, and for each of you to employ attorneys of your own to handle your case. In most complex cases, it's a lot less inflammatory to communicate through your lawyers, than to go through rounds of failed negotiation, which waste time and resources, before getting to the point of just letting the lawyers handle it. Whatever you do, don't go into mediation for the primary purpose of trying to save a few bucks.

Do listen to your attorney, and have a reasonable basis for communication with your attorney through the divorce process. Keep your attorney in the loop of any contact you have with your spouse, once you've filed papers. If you feel you must communicate with your spouse directly, do as much of that as possible in writing, and cc your attorney. Don't negotiate "around" your attorney, particularly on matters of payments to your spouse, custody/child care, or housing; stick to the letter of written agreements and court orders throughout the divorce process, so as to keep your case moving through the system. If you go with a typical family practice attorney, you will be one of from 50 to 200 cases they are handling simultaneously, and it may take a day or two for them to respond to questions/issues you may have. So, be clear about e-mail and phone communications with them, and try to present your information to them in a logical, organized way, including consistent reference to previous communications.

You're not going to get to air emotional issues in the courts during a divorce process. As far as the court is concerned, it's just about getting to what the state considers an equitable division of your assets, and making provisions for the care of your children, and perhaps, your wife. Whatever feelings and emotional issues you or your wife may still have about this marriage, you'll be better off airing in support groups, or with a family therapist, than paying a lawyer to listen to. But good luck with that; as I say, most divorces seem to come with bigger amounts of ill will and drama, by the time they are final, than ever they should have, either going in, or in hindsight, once the dust settles. It's hard to keep calm while you put away a life you had for as long as you've been married.

IANAL, but from what I understand, California is a community property state. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, alimony and child support usually follow formulas based on your income.
posted by paulsc at 11:11 PM on November 21, 2007

She's also entitled to half the money deposited in your 401k/IRA for the length of the marriage.

She's entitled to the half the money deposited PLUS the appreciation on that same half.

Assuming that you were contributing to the 401K before you got married, you will probably need to hire a forensic account to untangle the mess. Yes, I had to hire one when I divorced.
posted by shinybeast at 11:52 PM on November 21, 2007

You might want to consider Collaborative lawyers. It should help keep the process amicable.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:37 AM on November 22, 2007

I'm not a family law lawyer, but I've never heard of "alimony for life" except perhaps in unusual circumstances (multiple barriers to employment). Here's an article stating similar.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:25 PM on November 22, 2007

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