Paying a Spousal/Partner Support Order

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Spousal or partner support orders direct one spouse/partner to pay the other spouse/partner a specified amount periodically for a fixed duration of time. In California, the duration of support is often dependent on the duration of the relationship. The court may require that the higher earner assist the lower earner in maintaining their lifestyle for this fixed duration.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Once the court orders support, the payments are to begin on the date specified. In a family law case ordering support, the judge will order a wage garnishment (or wage/earnings assignment) telling the employer how much to deduct from each paycheck and where to send the payment. The employer is then responsible to withhold wages, and the employer has ten days to start taking the money out from the next paycheck.

How to Proceed Without a Wage Garnishment

If both parties in a divorce or legal separation agree to make or receive payments in an alternative way, they can ask the judge to review their case. The garnishment can be either canceled (“quashed”) or put on hold (“stayed”). The garnishment may be canceled if both parties have an agreement to pay support directly or the paying spouse has made payments on time for the last twelve months without a garnishment, does not owe back spousal or partner support, and would be unduly burdened by the garnishment. The garnishment may be put on hold if the paying spouse has a history of making payments on time, the garnishment would cause undue hardship, or any existing back spousal or partner support is due to undeliverable checks.

Changing (or Ending) a Support Order

A support order continues until it terminates by operation of law or is modified by another court order. After a judge orders support, the order may need to be altered as a result of a “change in circumstances” because something significant has happened since the support order was made. If something has happened that has made it necessary to change the support amount, it is crucial to act right away to change the support order to reflect the changes. The support order cannot be changed retroactively, and the judge can only change the support amount from the date of filing the papers in court to request the change. Discuss this in further detail with your Los Angeles family law attorney.

A support order may need to be changed for one of many reasons. It could be that the spouse or partner getting support no longer needs it, or the paying spouse or partner suffered from a significant drop in income and can no longer afford the amount of support. It could also be that the one getting support is not making a good-faith effort to become self-supporting. It could even be that the one getting support remarries. Your divorce lawyer will be able to go over other possible scenarios.

Whatever the change in circumstances may be, if the parties can agree on a new support amount themselves, they can write up an agreement and give it to the judge to sign off as a new court order. However, if they cannot agree on this change, the one wanting the change must file a motion with the court asking for a modification of the support amount.

For guidance on issues relating to spousal support, contact the expert Los Angeles family lawyers at Walzer & Melcher today.