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Getting Alimony: It’s a Case-by-Case Affair

<i> B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life. </i>

Q I am considering divorcing my husband, and I need to know whether I can get alimony from him. Although I worked until March, 1988, I quit to study full time. I am graduating with a bachelor of arts degree this month.

L.T., Newport Beach

A The area of spousal support can be very technical and is dependent upon the facts of each case. Generally, either spouse can be ordered to pay spousal support pending the dissolution proceeding. The amount of this temporary support is determined by the judge and is based on the parties’ incomes, their needs and their earning capabilities.

Upon the dissolution of a marriage, spousal support can be ordered for any amount and for any period of time that the judge considers reasonable. The judge must consider the following factors in making the decision: the parties’ earning capabilities; the parties’ needs; the parties’ obligations and assets; the ability of a spouse to seek and maintain employment without jeopardizing any children’s interests; the length of the marriage; the parties’ age and health; the parties’ standard of living; the time needed for a spouse to be trained to obtain employment, and any other factors that the judge may consider relevant.

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As you can see, your question cannot be simply answered without reviewing your individual situation. You should consult a lawyer for specific advice.

Q I obtained an Orange County Municipal Court “Judgment Default by Court Unlawful Detainer” in the amount of $5,053. My attorney requested the Orange County marshal to file an application for earnings withholding on the defendant’s employer. The application was returned early in June, stating that the defendant no longer worked at that location. On June 9, 1988, another attorney requested the marshal to serve an application for earnings withholding with the defendant’s employer after he had verified that she was still employed. The Los Angeles office of the company referred the attorney to a New York office. A letter to that office resulted in the information that the request should be sent to a different address. No response has been received to a letter dated Nov. 29, 1988, to that address.

Are there any other options or procedures available to me to collect on this judgment?

C.O.R., Irvine

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A An application for earnings withholding, which is an order to garnish wages, legally must be obeyed by the employer. If an employer fails to comply with the order, a judgment creditor may sue him in a civil action for the amount provided by the order. If the employer fails to obey the order with an intent to defraud the judgment creditor, he can be charged with a misdemeanor. You should discuss with your attorney the practicality of pursuing these measures.

An alternative to suing or prosecuting the employer to satisfy your judgment would be to discover what other assets the judgment debtor may have by making the judgment debtor undergo a judgment debtor examination. At the examination, the judgment debtor will be required to answer assets questions under oath. Your attorney should be able to assist you in this. The clerk’s office of the Municipal Court that granted the judgment should also be able to provide you with this information.

Q My landlord refuses to make certain repairs in my apartment. I love my apartment, and don’t want to move. Can I make the repairs and charge him?

M.E., Santa Ana

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A You do not mention what needs to be repaired in your apartment. If the repairs involve items that the landlord should repair, such as the plumbing or heat, you can deduct the cost of the repairs in an amount not exceeding 1 month’s rent.

You must, however, give the landlord notice that there are things that need to be repaired and allow him reasonable time to make the repairs. The law presumes that, if 30 days have elapsed from the date you gave notice, you have waited a reasonable period.

You may deduct the cost of such repairs just twice in a year.


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