UPDATE: The sweeping new tax plan Congress passed at the end of 2017 will impact almost everyone. This includes changes to divorce settlements, specifically those involving spousal support.
Beginning January 1, 2019, on new court orders that include spousal support provisions, the party paying spousal support will no longer be able to deduct this amount. At the same time, the recipient will no longer have to pay taxes on this amount. As it currently stands, the opposite is true. This may impact the way people negotiate divorce settlements. Some estimate spousal support payments could drop as much as 10% to 15%.
However, this large change in spousal support taxation policy will not apply to existing divorce orders (those entered prior to January 1, 2019). These orders, so long as not later modified, will be grandfathered in at the prior tax policy.
It is important to note that any Modification after December 31, 2018, to a pre-existing court order re spousal support will likely be subject to the new laws. So, if you have an order in place before 2019, the old regulations still apply. But if you modify the order after the new tax plan takes effect, you’re likely subject to the new rules.
ORIGINAL POST: Aah, Kobe Bryant. He provides endless entertainment both in and on the court. However, it sounds like his most recent problem will be the most costly because he stands to lose half of his fortune. Not only has his wife filed for divorce, but she filed just after crossing the fabled 10-year mark.
One thing that has bothered me about the media coverage of this divorce is how often the press is getting the 10-year rule wrong. Most media outlets conclude that Vanessa will automatically get millions of dollars of alimony for the rest of her life, but this isn’t true. While Vanessa has received some great advice from her lawyer, passing the 10-year mark is not a slam dunk for her. The court must act reasonably and Kobe can still petition to modify the support agreement.
Any amount of money that she will receive must be reasonable both in amount and in time frame. To determine what is reasonable, the court is going to look at many factors listed in Cal. Fam. Code §4320. Some factors include the following:
- earning capacity,
- marketable skills,
- the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage,
- and the length of marriage.
Length of marriage is important. For marriages that are less than 10 years, the court defaults to a support period of half the length of the marriage. So, if they had been married for eight years, she would receive four years of support. For over 10 years, the court has no such presumption and may order longer periods of support. Typically the initial order by the court will require spousal support until she remarries or dies.
Nevertheless, the ultimate goal is that the supported party be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time, and the law gives the court jurisdiction to modify support if the situation changes. Cal. Fam. Code §4336 provides the court indefinite jurisdiction over the spousal support for marriages lasting over ten years. This does not mean that Kobe will have to pay Vanessa support for the rest of her life. Both parties have the right to petition the court to extend, modify, or terminate her support if her situation changes.
Or course, since they claim that the details of the divorce have already been worked out between the parties, we won’t get to see this process play out in court. But, if negotiations break down, between the allegations of cheating, no prenup, and a longer than 10-year marriage, we could see a very messy court battle