Life, Death, Spousal Support, and Insurance
If there’s one thing we know for sure about spousal support, also known as alimony, it’s that it ends with the death of either party. That’s why Family Code section 4360 exists. It provides that a court making a spousal support order “may include an amount sufficient to purchase an annuity for the supported spouse or to maintain insurance for the benefit of the supported spouse on the life of the spouse required to make the payment of support”.
This provision is particularly important for lengthy marriages, as an order for spousal support may last indefinitely and not just half the length of the marriage (which is usually the case for marriages less than ten years). So, what happens in one of those longer marriages if the paying spouse dies just a few years after the divorce? It’s a big problem, especially if the payor was ordered to pay a large sum of spousal support each month.
That’s why an attorney may ask for an insurance order in a high asset case.
There’s some authority for the proposition that even if the court has already made its spousal support order and no insurance order is made, the recipient can return to court later on and ask for the insurance provision. This should be compared with requests after the divorce to change the dollar amount of the actual spousal support order. You can do that too, but unlike insurance requests, requests to change spousal support after divorce are only supposed to be granted if there have been a showing of a material change in circumstances.
Spousal support is tax deductible for the payor and is taxable to the recipient. (By contrast, child support is not tax deductible.) Besides ending with death, spousal support also automatically ends with the receipient’s remarriage unless there is a written agreement ahead of time in the court judgment that remarriage will not terminate spousal support.