How a Court Determines Spousal Support in California

Spousal support, also known as alimony, can become a heated issue during a divorce. While a higher earning spouse may not like paying it, a lower earning spouse may insist on receiving it. And unless a compromise can be reached, the issue of how much alimony should be paid and for how long can quickly turn into a bitter court battle. In today’s blog, we’re going to discuss what spousal support in California is, and how a court determines the numbers behind it.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is generally a court-mandated requirement for one spouse to pay another a set amount each month. The money is meant to assist the lower earner in maintaining the lifestyle the married couple shared, for at least some period of time. Spousal support may only be awarded after a spouse files a civil claim in court. Grounds for a spousal support claim may include:

  • Divorce
  • Annulment
  • Legal separation
  • Domestic violence

When a divorce is pending and during the divorce proceedings, a California judge may award temporary spousal support. The purpose of the temporary support is to maintain the standard of living conditions of both parties until permanent support is determined. This support does not expire and there is no set limit to its expiration.

After the divorce, the court sets permanent spousal support. Permanent support can consist of either periodic payments or a single lump-sum payment. The purpose of permanent support is to provide the lower-earning spouse with sufficient income for their basic needs and to ensure that their lifestyle remains consistent after the divorce.

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

For temporary spousal support, judges generally use a formula to calculate the amount. Courts in different counties may use slightly different factors in calculating temporary support. Your court’s local rules should explain how temporary support is calculated in your county.

When it comes to permanent spousal support, a judge does not use a formula to figure out the amount. Instead, the judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage
  • What each person pays or can pay to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Debts and property
  • Whether a spouse helped the other get an education or career
  • Domestic violence
  • Tax implications

Once spousal support is determined, it becomes part of the final divorce or legal separation judgment.

Contact Us Today

If you want to learn more about how spousal support is determined in California, contact our Riverside County family lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. We can discuss the specifics of your case and determine your legal options.

Call (951) 687-6003 for a free case consultation.


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