Spousal/Partner Support FAQs

Spousal or Partner Support Basics — Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How is spousal support taxed?

A. Usually, spousal support is tax deductible for the paying spouse and taxable income for the supported spouse.

If you have a valid same-sex marriage, talk to a lawyer for advice. Same-sex marriages, even if legal in some states, are not recognized by federal law, so spousal support from a divorce of a same-sex marriage may be treated differently for tax purposes.

Q. How is partner support taxed?

A. Federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partners. These laws can be very complicated, and it is important to talk with a lawyer or accountant who is knowledgeable in this area and about income, property, and other taxes.

Q. Can we get help to work out a support agreement without going to court?

A. Yes. Mediation can help you solve disagreements about money issues, like spousal or partner and child support and property. In some counties the family law facilitator can provide some child support mediation services. Click here to find the family law facilitator in your county.

You can also hire a private mediator to help you agree about money AND parenting issues. But it is not required. Private mediators are usually lawyers or mental health professionals. They usually charge between $50 and $250 an hour. Usually both parties share this cost.

Read Alternative Dispute Resolution: Options for Resolving Your Dispute to learn more about how mediation can help you.  Or contact the family law facilitator in your county.

Q. What if my employer threatens to fire me because of an earnings assignment (wage garnishment)?

A. It is illegal for any employer to discriminate, retaliate, or fire an employee because of the existence of an earnings assignment. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you or let you go only because of the earnings assignment, talk to a lawyer or your family law facilitator.  Click for help finding a lawyer.

Q. The parent who is supposed to pay support is in jail. Does he or she still have to pay support?

A. Yes. But support will be nearly impossible to collect, unless the person in jail has assets or other income.

A person in jail or prison must take action to change the spousal or partner and child support while he or she is incarcerated. If not, past due spousal or partner and child support will continue to grow and that person will have to pay the past due support when released, plus interest.

A person who goes to jail should contact the county local child support agency (LCSA) to modify the child and spousal or partner support order if they are involved in the case.

If the LCSA is not involved, the person ordered to pay support should contact the family law facilitator for help stopping the support while incarcerated (in jail or prison).

Asking for Spousal Support — Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can we get help to work out a support agreement without going to court?

A. Yes. Mediation can help you solve disagreements about money issues, like spousal or partner and child support and property. In some counties the family law facilitator can provide some child support mediation services.

You can also hire a private mediator to help you agree about money AND parenting issues. But it is not required. Private mediators are usually lawyers or mental health professionals. They usually charge between $50 and $250 an hour. Usually both parties share this cost.

Read Alternative Dispute Resolution: Options for Resolving Your Dispute to learn more about how mediation can help you.  Or contact the family law facilitator in your county.

Q. Will the local child support agency (LCSA) open a case for spousal or partner support only?

A. No. The local child support agency can help you enforce an existing spousal or partner support order, but only if they are also handling your child support case. If you just have a spousal/partner support case, the LCSA cannot help you

Responding to Spousal/Partner Support — Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What if my employer threatens to fire me because of an earnings assignment (wage garnishment)?

A. It is illegal for any employer to discriminate, retaliate, or fire an employee because of the existence of an earnings assignment. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you or let you go only because of the earnings assignment, talk to a lawyer or your family law facilitator.  Click for help finding a lawyer.

Changing Spousal Support — Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I end spousal or partner support?

A. It depends. If the court order for spousal or partner support already has an end date in it, then you do not have to do anything. If your wages are being garnished, you may have to prepare a new Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (Form FL-435) that reflects a $0 amount for spousal/partner support and give that to your employer.

Spousal or partner support also ends if your former spouse or domestic partner remarries or enters into a new domestic partnership. You may need to have a new Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support prepared with a $0 amount.

Ask your court clerk what the procedure in your court is. Or ask your court’s family law facilitator for help.

If your support obligations are ending because your former spouse or partner has remarried or entered into a new partnership, your court may also require you to formally file a request to end your support. This request is called a “motion” and the process is the same as for changing a spousal or partner support order. Find out how to file papers to end the spousal/partner support order.

If the local child support agency is involved in enforcing the spousal/partner and child support in your case, you may be able to get your spousal or partner support ended without having to go to court. Find out if the LCSA can contact your former spouse or partner on your behalf to verify the new marriage or partnership and prepare an agreement ending the spousal support.

Keep in mind that if you owe any past spousal or partner support, you will have to continue making payments until you pay it off, including any accrued interest.

Paying Spousal Support — Frequently Asked Questions

Q. The parent who is supposed to pay support is in jail. Does he or she still have to pay support?

A. Yes. But support will be nearly impossible to collect, unless the person in jail has assets or other income.

A person in jail or prison must take action to change the spousal or partner and child support order while he or she is incarcerated. If not, past due support will continue to grow and that person will have to pay the past due support when released, plus interest.

If the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved in the case, a person who goes to jail should contact them to modify the child and spousal or partner support order.

If the LCSA is not involved, the person ordered to pay support should contact the family law facilitator<link to Find FLF> for help stopping the support while incarcerated (in jail or prison).

Q. How do I end spousal or partner support?

A. It depends. If the court order for spousal or partner support already has an end date in it, then you do not have to do anything. If your wages are being garnished, you may have to prepare a new Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (Form FL-435) that reflects a $0 amount for spousal/partner support and give that to your employer.

Ask your court clerk what the procedure in your court is. Or ask your court’s family law facilitator for help.

Spousal or partner support also ends if your former spouse or domestic partner remarries or enters into a new domestic partnership. If this happens, ask your court’s family law facilitator for help. You may need to have a new Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support prepared with a $0 amount.

Or your court may require you to formally file a request to end your support. This request is called a “motion” and the process is the same as for changing a spousal or partner support order. Learn how to file papers to end the spousal/partner support order.

If the local child support agency is involved in enforcing the spousal/partner and child support in your case, you may be able to get your spousal or partner support ended without having to go to court. Find out if the LCSA can contact your former spouse or partner on your behalf to verify the new marriage or partnership and prepare an agreement ending the spousal support.

Keep in mind that if you owe any past spousal or partner support, you will have to continue making payments until you pay it off, including any accrued interest. 

Q. I am ordered to pay spousal/partner support as well as child support. My former spouse or partner has opened a case with the local child support agency. What does that mean?

A. The local child support agency (LCSA) helps parents collect child support payments and a spousal/partner support order if 1 is in place too. When they become involved, they will be the ones contacting you about anything related to the support orders.

If you fall behind in payments, the LCSA has several tools it can use to help your former spouse/partner collect payments from you:

  • Credit reporting: Not paying support on time can affect a person’s credit rating. The local child support agency (LCSA) will report each past due support payment to major credit reporting agencies.
  • Passport denial:  Anytime a person owes more than $2,500 in back child support, the U.S. State Department will not issue or renew a passport until all past-due support payments (also called “arrears”) are paid. If your passport application is denied, you will have to make arrangements with the local child support agency to make your support current before traveling outside the United States. You will also have to make arrangements if your passport needs to be renewed while you are already out of the United States.
  • Property liens: The LCSA will file a lien against the real property (like a house or land) of a person who owes past due support. When the property is sold, past due support may be paid out of the proceeds from the property sale.
  • Suspending licenses: The LCSA can request that any permanent, state-issued licenses be suspended or withheld to collect past due support. The State Licensing Match System is used to match parents who owe support with business, professional, and driver’s licenses. These licenses include those for cosmetologists, contractors, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and more.
  • Franchise Tax Board Child Support Collection Program: The LCSA must let the Franchise Tax Board know anytime a person is more than $100 and 60 days past due in paying support. The Franchise Tax Board can take funds from bank accounts, rental incomes, royalties, dividends, and commissions. The Franchise Tax Board can also issue an Earnings Withholding Order and take real and personal property, such as vacant land, cash, property held in safe deposit boxes, vehicles, and even boats, to collect support.
  • Income tax refund intercepts: The Internal Revenue Service and the Franchise Tax Board can also intercept tax refunds to pay past due support.
  • Financial Institution Data Match: Many banks, savings and loan institutions, and credit unions in California and the United States report the assets they hold. These assets can be taken for payment of current and past due support.
  • Disability Insurance Benefit Intercept System: The LCSA can take part of state disability payments owed to parents who owe support to pay both current and past due support.
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefit Intercept System: Part of state unemployment benefit payments due to the noncustodial parent can be taken to pay both current and past due support.
  • Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board match system: Lump sum workers’ compensation awards can be taken to pay past due support.
  • Lottery intercept: Lottery winnings can be taken to pay both current and past due support.

Q. Can the person who falls behind in support payments go to jail for not paying support?

A. Someone cannot be put in jail just because they are in debt.

But the person who owes support is ignoring a court order to pay support, so he or she can be prosecuted for being in contempt of court and maybe go to jail for that reason. This enforcement tool is generally used as a last resort when all other efforts to collect support have failed. If you are being charged with contempt of court and could face criminal charges, you have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask the court to appoint 1 for you.

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