Different Types of Spousal Support Explained

Temporary Spousal Support

Divorce can be a long process, taking anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete. However, during that time the parties are still legally married but living separately and apart. Not only must each spouse cover their own separate living expenses, but they likely have to cover legal fees and court costs as well.

If one spouse was primarily responsible for being the “bread-winner” of the family, while the other was exclusively responsible for taking care of the home and possibly their children, living separately would be relatively more expensive for one of them during the divorce process.

To address this issue, courts grant temporary spousal support orders—also known as spousal support “pendente lite,” which is Latin for “pending litigation.” The purpose of a temporary spousal support order is to maintain the status quo until trial. This purpose is distinct from the spousal support a court ultimately issues at the end of divorce proceedings, as it helps both parties to honor their existing financial obligations and live at the standard of living to which they got used to during the marriage.

As suggested by its name, a temporary spousal support order is only effective until the court renders a final divorce judgment, at which time it will issue a “permanent” spousal support award, which governs the payment of spousal support after the parties get divorced. Because the role of temporary spousal support is different from a final spousal support order, courts are not required to make findings under California Family Code § 4320.

Permanent Spousal Support

A family law court will issue a “permanent” spousal support award at the end of divorce proceedings. The purpose of permanent spousal support is to allow a party with less financial resources to live at the marital standard of living.

The phrase “permanent spousal support” is a bit of a misnomer because payments may not last indefinitely and the order can be modified or terminated upon a showing that a material change in circumstances justifies changing its terms or ending payments altogether. Instead, the term “permanent” is used to distinguish it from temporary pendente lite spousal support orders.

An award for permanent spousal support is appropriate if one spouse has a need for financial assistance after divorce and the other spouse has the ability to provide such assistance. When determining a permanent spousal support obligation, courts must consider the factors outlined in California Family Code § 4320.

Some of the major factors listed under Family Code § 4320 include:

  • The duration of the parties’ marriage
  • The earning capacity of each party
  • The goal of the supported spouse to become financially self-sufficient within a reasonable time

Duration of Spousal Support Orders

The duration of the parties’ marriage is directly relevant to determining the duration of a permanent spousal support order. In California, marriages are divided into two categories for purposes of determining the duration of a spousal support order: short-term marriages, and long-term marriages.

short-term marriage is one that lasts shorter than ten years, whereas a long-term marriage is one that lasts ten years or longer.

Under California Family Code § 4336, a “reasonable period of time” that will allow a party receiving spousal support is generally half the length of a short-term marriage. Conversely, cases involving long-term marriages typically warrant an indefinite spousal support duration.

Contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for Effective Legal Advocacy

Issues in divorce cases, such as spousal support, can involve sophisticated legal rules and concepts. To help protect your legal interests in your divorce, you should retain the services of an experienced attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. We have offices located throughout Southern California.

Get professional legal services for your case by calling Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654 for an initial consultation today.


Request Your Consultation Today

Premier Legal Services for Criminal & Family Law Matters
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.