In a divorce or legal separation proceeding, a judge may order one spouse to pay the other alimony or spousal support as part of a judgment.  With this in mind, what are the factors that determine spousal support?

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Get help with a Spousal Support Order!

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First of all, the court will base spousal support on each spouse’s earning capacity. The court will also consider how much is required to keep up the couple’s marital standard of living.  Historically, the husband was the breadwinner. In this regard, the purpose of spousal support was to make sure that the wife was taken care of.  Today this may not be the case.  In two-income households where both partners earn similar salaries, a judge might not order any spousal support.  On the other hand, if a wife earns significantly more than her husband, she may have to pay him support.  The amount and duration of spousal support depends on a number of factors outlined in California Family Code §4320.

The length of the marriage is one of the primary factors that determine spousal support.  Spousal support is designed to give the supported spouse enough money that he/she can get back on his/her feet.  One of the key factors that determine spousal support duration is the length of the marriage. Typically, the supporting spouse will have to pay support for a period equal half the length of the marriage.  However, if the marriage was longer than ten years, a judge might not set an end date to the spousal support.  Even if the judge orders spousal support with no end date (which is rare), the support will end if the supported spouse remarries.

One of the other key factors that determine spousal support is whether the spouse receiving alimony will need further education. For example, does the spouse need more schooling or other training to develop marketable skills so they can return to the workplace? If so, court can factor in the cost of education when determining the amount of support.

How much did the supported spouse contribute to the financial success of the supporting spouse? For example, the couple may have spent a considerable amount of community funds to enhance the education of the supporting spouse.

How much did the supported spouse contribute to the financial success of the supporting spouse? For example, the couple may have spent a considerable amount of community funds to enhance the education of the supporting spouse.

How much can the paying spouse actuall afford to pay to the other spouse? In some situations, there is no way to make an order that will keep both parties in the same standard of living they enjoyed as a married couple.

If the couple has children, is it financially feasible for the supported spouse to return to work and care for the children? A couple who has three young children that all require daycare may find it too expensive for the supported spouse to return to work until they are older.

Age and health of the couple is also considered as one of the important factors that determine spousal support in California. Are one of the parties retiring in the near future? Does either spouse have a disability that prevents them from working?

What are the tax consequences to each spouse? In the past, spousal support was tax deductible by the party who paid support. In contrast, spousal support was considered taxable income for the party receiving support. Effective January 2019, however, spousal support will no longer be tax deductible by the payor.

One of the common unknown factors that determine spousal support is whether there is evidence of domestic violence. If a supported spouse presents evidence of domestic violence, the amount the supporting spouse pays may be higher than normal. An higer order of support is to compensate for the emotional distress of domestic violence. If the spouse seeking support is the abuser, there is a presumption they will receive no support regardless of the economic circumstances.

What was the standard of living the couple had during the marriage? How much will it cost to support a similar standard of living due to having separate households?

Are there any unique hardships? The court will also try to balance hardships bwtween each spouse.

Other Factors that Determine Spousal Support

The court may, on its own, consider other unique circumstances or factors on a case-by-case basis.

As you can see, many factors determine spousal support duration and amount. A couple seeking divorce or legal separation should keep this in mind when asking the court for spousal support. It is also essential to understand that spousal support can also be modifiable or non-modifiable. Spousal support can also be temporary or permanent, depending on the Judge’s order or the parties’ agreement.

Now that you understand the factors that determine spousal support, contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to get a spousal support order. If you and your spouse agree to a spousal support amount, we can prepare the required documents to get a court order. If you and your spouse cannot agree, we can help prepare all required forms to set a motion to be heard by a Judge. The court will then hear the matter and make its order. Call us today at 800-747-2780 for immediate help.


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