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How Is Spousal Support Determined?

When a couple divorces, the court may order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month.

Immediately after separation, a spouse can ask for support. This is referred to as temporary spousal support. It is utilized to maintain the living conditions and standards of the parties in as close to the status quo position as possible pending trial and the division of their assets and obligations. The court may use guidelines when fashioning an award of temporary spousal support.

It can also be ordered once the divorce becomes final, as part of the final divorce judgment. The purpose of permanent spousal support is not to preserve the pre-separation status quo, but to provide financial assistance as determined by the financial circumstances of the parties after the divorce and division of their community property

Unlike child support, awarding permanent spousal support requires review of many different factors. At this time, the judge considers the factors specified in California Family Code Section 4320. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each person’s individual needs, based on the standard of living they had during the marriage
  • What each person can afford to pay
  • Earning capacity
  • The age and health of each party
  • Whether having a job would make it difficult to care for the minor children
  • History of domestic violence

How long should long-term spousal support last? In marriages of ten years or longer, the court often maintains jurisdiction to modify support indefinitely. Support ends on death or remarriage. According to Family Code Section 4336, shorter term marriages often have orders for support for half the length of the marriage.

If you anticipate a dispute over spousal support of any other family matter, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney. Contact the Riverside family law offices of Health L. Baker for the answers you need.