I AM IN THE PROCESS OF FILING FOR A DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE. I HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 23 YRS TO RESPONDENT. AM I ENTITLED TO FILE FOR SPOUSAL, CHILD AND ALIMONY SUPPORT? HOW MUCH AM I ENTITLED TO CLAIM?.... I WILL BE RETURNING TO COURT TOMORROW, NOV. 21, 2011, PLEASE TRY AND RESPOND TO MY QUESTION JUST AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. MUCH APPRECIATED!!!! MONICA FROM MONTEBELLO, CALIFORNIA
Family Law Attorney
You should have an attorney help you because it sounds as if you are in over your head.
Basically, if you have minor children you are entitled to child support. The amount is likely based upon your and your spouses combined incomes. California, as do all states, has the ability to establish their own system of support but I seem to recall that child support is based upon a combination of spouses incomes. If you do not work the court is entitled to impute income to you in a particular amount using various formulas.
The courts in California have very broad ability to award alimony (spousal maintenance is the same as alimony). In most states there is a general rule that the court looks at need and ability to pay. You will need some form of financial statement showing your needs and something that indicates his ability to pay. His ability can be shown from the income tax returns or income pay statements.
These are very difficult times for folks and most people do not have the experience or background to deal with them on their own. With a 23 year marriage you need the help of an expert and that is why you should hire an attorney.
On last caveat. Since each state has their own system concerning divorce, the information I have given you is rather generic and I claim no special expertise in Calfifornia. That should tell you that if I, with nearly 40 years of experience, am reluctant to offer more than general information than you, who likely has never gone through this before, are even less likely than I am to be confident in my actions during this critical time in your life.
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Family Law Attorney
Monica, Attorney Couture has given you the long answer, the short answer is try to get an adjournment of your court appearance tomorrow on the basis that you need time to engage counsel. Then, do just that! It will not serve you well to try to do this on your own as you are likely to fail to assert all your rights. Consult with a local attorney to review all your rights, options and obligations in this situation, and do so immediately. Good luck!
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Divorce / Separation Lawyer
Spousal support is probably the least predictable and most litigated issue in a divorce case. The reason is that there is NO SET ANSWER to your question. To begin with, there are two types of spousal support: (1) temporary and (2) permanent. Don't let the names fool you; they do not mean you get one for a short time or one forever. What they meant is support while you sort out the issue in the divorce (temporary) and the final order (at trial). With the first, there is an algebraic formula (most courts use dissomaster - a computer software program that you can find online or in your local law library) into which the court will enter your spouse's gross annual income, your gross annual income, a few items for deductions, and PRESTO - your support amount appears. With the latter, the court MAY NOT use this formula. Instead, the court MUST consider the factors listed in Family Code section 4320, et seq. This is why your question has no clear answer - take a look at these factors (google the code). They include your age, your spouse's health, your ability to earn, your spouse's ability to pay, standard of living during marriage, education, and so on, and on, and on. And, in the end, the last factor is anything the court deems appropriate.
If the court is going to order spousal support, the next question is how much? Once that is resolved, the court will decide (unless you and your spouse can agree) on how long and if it is modifiable.
There is a formula that the courts use for child support. I have often found that it is incredibly unrealistic for both spouses. It does not meet the needs of your individual child.
My colleagues suggested you get some additional time to find an attorney who can assist you with this. I understand that this can be a huge challenge: not only finding the right attorney, but being able to afford the fees that go along with it. Too often, people spend a small fortune on this issue and are extremely DISSATISFIED with what they get back. My suggestion to you would be to speak with someone who litigates (fights these cases in court) and someone who resolves these types of cases out-of-court. The good news is that these issues are resolvable - I help couples do this every day. In fact, I have a wonderful handout on preparing for this exact topic. The bad news is that too many people have a myopic view on HOW to resolve this issue and end up spending more than they get back. Take a look at some of the questions to which I've responded and you will see what I mean.
Get some time, do your research, and create a plan to meet your goals. Otherwise, you will likely find your self in deeper problems than you anticipated.
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