When a couples file for divorce or legal separation, the court may order a spouse or domestic partner to pay spousal support (also called partner support in domestic partnerships) on a monthly basis. Spousal support is a complicated legal issue and many factors are considered when determining whether a court orders short term vs lifetime spousal support in California. Contact a legal document assistant to help you understand the fundamentals of California spousal support guidelines, calculate spousal or partner support, and how we can help you prepare court forms.

There are several different forms required to file a motion to obtain or modify a spousal support order. A People’s Choice can help take the complexity out of the legal process. At A People’s Choice, we have helped many spouses obtain orders for both short term and lifetime spousal support in California. Read on to learn about the difference between short term vs lifetime spousal support in California and how to get a spousal support order.

Duration of Spousal Support in California

Spousal support in California may either be granted as a temporary or permanent order. A temporary spousal support order compensates a lower-earning spouse throughout the divorce process. Lifetime spousal support in California is granted along with the final judgment in which the lower-earning spouse receives support to maintain his/her marital standard of living (post-divorce).

“A People’s Choice helped me file a motion for spousal support, set my hearing and even helped arrange to serve my spouse. They spent quite a bit of time going over the background of my situation, explaining my story far better than I could have!” L. Friedman
“My spouse was determined that he was not going to pay me any support whatsoever. However, once my case was heard by a judge, my spouse was finally ordered to financially help me. I never would have been able to do this on my own.” L. Friedman

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An order for temporary spousal support in California is based on the same computer program used to calculate child support. Contrary to what many family law attorneys will tell you, Family Code 4320 can be considered by the judge when ordering a temporary spousal support order.  The court will review both spouses income over the past twelve months when calculating a temporary support order. When determining spousal support in California, the court will look at the net disposable income of each spouse and decide whether the higher earning spouse has sufficient funds to pay the order.

As mentioned above, temporary alimony (spousal support) payments usually last throughout the divorce proceedings. Most divorces are resolved within a year in California. There are many creative solutions to spousal support in a divorce. It is important for couples to look at the entire picture when addressing this important issue.

Lifetime Spousal Support in California

Permanent spousal support orders are typically not paid for life. Unless the spousal support order is made unmodifiable by agreement of the spouses, and it is set to continue until death of the payor spouse, spousal support orders will usually terminate upon the occurrence of a defined, specific event. The duration of a permanent support in California depends on the length of the marriage. For short-term marriages, the duration of spousal support typically will last for no more than one-half the duration of the marriage. For marriages longer than ten years, judges will consider various factors in determining the amount of support to be paid to maintain the marital standard of living:

  • The marketable skills of the supported spouse; the job market for those skills;
  • The extent to which the supported spouse’s earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to allow the supported spouse to devote time to domestic duties
  • The extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s attainment of an education, training, career, or license
  • The paying spouse’s ability  to pay alimony
  • Both spouses’ obligations (debts) and assets
  • The length of the marriage
  • The supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home
  • The age and health of the spouses.  

For long term marriages, spousal support in California is usually ordered to be paid until the supported spouse can reasonably become self-supporting, remarries, or passes away. Unless the court order specifies the order is not modifiable, either party can file a motion to modify a previous spousal support. Click here for more information about how to modify a spousal support order.  Contact us for more information about obtaining a temporary or permanent spousal support order.

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