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Understanding Spousal Support In California

Understanding Spousal Support In California

Calculating spousal support in California is a complex and unpredictable process. In some cases, divorcing spouses agree on the amount of support and length of time one spouse will pay the other. In other cases, couples do not agree to spousal support terms, and a judge must make those decisions.

You might find online calculators and general formulas to determine spousal support in California. However, you should be cautious about relying on these calculations. Judges have discretion and consider many factors when making support decisions.

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support may be requested during a divorce or separation process. Typically, the spouse seeking support will request an order for temporary spousal support from the court. The purpose is to set forth financial terms and rules for spouses while the legal process is pending.

Since the support is only temporary, the court does not have to examine all of the factors it may consider when determining permanent spousal support. In general, the court will look at the financial circumstances of each party to determine the needs of the party seeking support and the other party’s ability to pay.

Temporary spousal support is meant to last throughout the legal process for divorce or separation. If financial circumstances change during the process, the court might modify the temporary support order.

For example, suppose the supported party’s income increases due to a new job. In that case, the supporting party may ask the judge to reduce the amount of support they were originally ordered to pay. Keep reading for more information about modifying spousal support.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support is ordered at the conclusion of the divorce process. Contrary to what the name suggests, permanent does not mean that the support terms will last forever. Permanent spousal support orders may or may not have an end date.

Even if there is no end date, courts generally want supported parties to work to become financially independent when possible. As described in more detail below, the length of the marriage is an essential factor in determining how long a supporting party will be required to provide payments to the supported party.

Factors To Consider In Permanent Support Decisions

As previously mentioned, judges look at what the supported spouse needs and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay when determining temporary spousal support. When making permanent support decisions, family law courts look at a much broader picture to decide the terms. Factors that courts may consider include the following:

  • The length of the marriage. In California, marriages that last less than ten years are considered short-term marriages, and the length of the support ordered is often equivalent to half of the length of the marriage. Marriages that last ten years or more are considered long-term unions, and courts may retain jurisdiction indefinitely to make spousal support decisions.
  • Each party’s income and earning capacity. A higher income earner may be ordered to support the lower income earner, but the court may look beyond paychecks when calculating support. If the lower earner has the skills and education to earn more money, the court can consider that when deciding the amount of support.
  • The lifestyle maintained during the marriage. Family law judges look at the standard of living maintained during the marriage, including vacations, housing accommodations, typical expenditures, and automobiles owned.
  • Each party’s property and financial obligations. Courts examine each party’s debts and assets when calculating spousal support.
  • Domestic violence. In California, domestic violence convictions can have a significant impact on spousal support terms. Depending on the circumstances, domestic violence offenders may be prohibited from receiving spousal support from the victim.

Modifying A Support Order

If a spousal support order is non-modifiable, the support order may not be changed for any reason. However, most support orders are modifiable and can be changed pursuant to a court order.

Courts will consider spousal support modification when there has been a significant change in one or both parties’ circumstances. Examples of change include an increase or decrease in income, the supported party remarries, or the supported party no longer needs alimony payments.

Speak With A California Spousal Support Attorney

Contact Bruce A. Mandel at 424-250-9130 or submit a contact form to speak with a California spousal support attorney. Bruce has represented clients in spousal support and other family law matters for more than 30 years. He works closely with his clients to secure the best possible outcome in every family law case.

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