Does Retirement End Spousal Support?
Life does not end at retirement and neither does spousal support. Like many people, you may find yourself in a predicament when considering retirement with alimony payments hanging over your head. You might be able to support yourself in retirement, but your investment income or pension payments may not be enough to cover your expenses and your former spouse’s. You may be wondering if you can retire or whether you need to keep working just to meet your alimony obligations.
Many people stop making payments, but this is not the best step to take as a judge may order late fees. Additionally, it will be more difficult to persuade a judge for a request for termination or modification if you disregard a current order for alimony. If you are facing this situation, continue to make payments. Speak with a California family law attorney about termination (or modification) of the payments. This can be the best route so that you have enough money to pay for your personal needs and debts and be in compliance with the alimony payments.
Retirement and Spousal Support Rules in California Courts
There are several rules that apply to the issue of alimony and retirement. Two cases have made a difference in how the court views retirement and ongoing alimony payments: In re. Marriage of Reynolds and In re. Marriage of Shimkus.
In re. Marriage of Reynolds
Briefly, California law has a general rule that a former spouse who is also eligible for retirement does not have to keep working in order to make spousal support payments. This rule came from a 1998 case, In re. Marriage of Reynolds. This case established that alimony payors are entitled to retire at age 65 even if retiring means that they will not continue support obligations.
It is important to understand that this does not mean that you can simply stop paying alimony when you retire. Failure to pay alimony is considered a violation of the terms of your divorce and serious consequences can follow. You must petition the court for an order terminating the spousal support obligations. Contact a spousal support attorney for more information on how to prepare a petition that will increase your chances to get approved.
In re. Marriage of Shimkus
The importance of the 2016 California Court of Appeal case of In re. Marriage of Shimkus is that it acknowledged that early retirement (before age 65) can support a request for modification or termination of spousal support under appropriate circumstances. In re. Marriage of Shimkus the husband was a firefighter. According to California law, the “normal retirement age” for a firefighter is 55. The husband submitted evidence, his testimony that he was retiring because he was too old to do the job adequately. The trial court granted his request to terminate spousal support.
The other significant part of this case is that the Court of Appeal for California’s Fourth District issued a reversal in part. While the court accepted that the husband’s early retirement was justified, it stated that the lower court must weigh the spousal support factors to determine whether a termination or modification is the most appropriate order for ongoing alimony payments.
The law regarding alimony is complicated. There are many factors and considerations when it comes to alimony so legal advice is often necessary when attempting to end or modify alimony. A consultation with a family law attorney will help you determine what factors will best help you receive a modification or a termination of your alimony payments.