Determining Spousal Support in a California Divorce

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What is spousal support?

When a couple legally separates or divorces in California, the court may order one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month. This is called “spousal support” for married couples and “partner support” in domestic partnerships. It is sometimes also referred to as “alimony.”

Spousal support orders generally direct one spouse to pay the other spouse a specified amount periodically for a fixed duration of time. The duration of spousal support is often dependent on the duration of the marriage, among other factors which your family lawyer can discuss with you. When calculating income to determine alimony, the court will typically look at the higher earning spouse’s previous 12 months of income.

How is Spousal Support Calculated in California?

The rationale behind spousal support is to preserve the current financial situation and lifestyle as much as possible. However, the support is often not for the spouse’s lifetime as the goal is for the spouse to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Unless the marriage was longer than 10 years, half the length of the marriage is presumed to be reasonable. Depending on one spouse’s needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay, the court can, in theory, order spousal support of any amount. However, in practice, courts use a formula to determine support. Your Los Angeles divorce attorney can discuss this formula with you in further detail.

To order spousal support, the court will consider whether the earning capacity of each spouse is adequate to maintain the marital standard of living. The court takes into account the job market, the spouse’s marketable skills, education or training required, and the extent to which unemployment to perform domestic duties during the marriage affected earning capacity.

The court can consider many factors that are relevant to the fairness of the spousal support award. This includes:

  • Age and health,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  • Contribution to education or training during marriage,
  • Balance of hardships,
  • Ability to pay support,
  • Earning capacity,
  • Assets and liabilities,
  • Tax consequences, and
  • The custodial parent’s ability to find employment without interfering with the interests of dependent children.

Do I Need to Hire a Family Law Attorney?

The formula used to determine support is the same in many California courts. However, a skilled family law attorney in Los Angeles will help you to negotiate terms with your ex-spouse to ensure that you receive the proper support each month, or that you do not end up paying more spousal support than necessary. Discuss your options with the experienced family lawyers at Walzer Melcher LLP  today.