Temporary Spousal Support
What is temporary spousal support and how is it granted?
Temporary spousal support is money paid from a higher earning spouse to a lower earning spouse during the divorce process while the case is still pending. To be awarded temporary spousal support, you will need to petition the court and ask for it.
Does it matter how long my spouse and I were married?
The length of the marriage is generally irrelevant when determining temporary spousal support, except in cases where the marriage was extremely short. Temporary spousal support generally has nothing to do with the length of the marriage, except in certain specific circumstances.
How is temporary spousal support calculated?
Typically, Los Angeles courts use what is known as the “Santa Clara” guideline formula to determine temporary spousal support. This guideline provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of the higher earning spouse’s monthly income, minus half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. California courts, and our office as well, almost always use a specific computer program called “Dissomaster” for the calculation, where we input both parties’ incomes and other relevant financial information.
However, there are a couple of exceptions to this guideline formula, such as the age and health of the parties or different assets or debts in each party’s possession, which may persuade the court to order spousal support in an amount greater or lesser than the guideline.
When does temporary spousal support end?
Temporary support payments typically terminate at the finalization of the divorce.
Permanent Spousal Support
What is permanent spousal support and how is it granted?
Permanent spousal support, or alimony, refers to payments made from one spouse to another once the divorce is finalized. Like temporary spousal support, you will need to formally request an order from the judge granting it.
How long will the spousal support be paid for?
For permanent spousal support, the length of the marriage will determine how long the support is paid for. Typically, if a marriage was shorter than 10 years, the receiving spouse will receive support for half the length of the marriage. For marriages longer than 10 years, the duration of alimony is half the length of the marriage or more depending on the specific circumstances. There are, however, reasons why a court may terminate or reduce alimony altogether, such as the paying spouse’s retirement, loss of income, or if the receiving spouse remarries.
How is the amount of spousal support determined?
For permanent spousal support, the court may not use a formula or guideline to determine the amount. Instead, the court looks at California Family Code section 4320. This code section lays out a variety of factors the court must consider than when making an order for spousal support.
These factors include:
- The extent to which the earning capacity of each spouse is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage
- The extent to which the paying spouse contributed to the other’s ability to get an education, training, or career position
- The ability of the paying spouse to pay spousal support
- The length of marriage
- The ability of the paying spouse to engage in gainful employment without interfering with the interests of dependent children in that spouse’s custody
- The age and health of both spouses
- Whether there has been any documented evidence of domestic violence
- The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party
- The balance of hardships to each spouse overall
- The goal that the receiving spouse shall be self-supporting within a reasonable timeframe
- Any other factors the court determines are worth taking into account
Can the amount of spousal support awarded ever change?
Yes! As with the termination of spousal support, the court may modify the awards amount if it finds that there has been a “material change in circumstances.” For example, if the receiving spouse is awarded a salary increase, the paying spouse may petition the court to reduce the support amount on the basis that the receiving spouse has less need for support since his or her income has increased.