When a couple legally separates or divorces, spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, may be ordered by the court. Under California law, spousal support is an order of one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of money each month for a certain length of time. Both husbands and wives may be entitled to spousal support, depending on the parties’ financial circumstances and income. Where there is a variance in the earning of one partner from the other, the person who earns less may wish to seek spousal support from the other person.

Spousal support is to be used to cover everyday expenses and helps the lesser earning spouse transition after a divorce or separation. After the parties separate, but before the parties have a final divorce entered, either party may request a temporary spousal support order from the court. Temporary spousal support is a payment made from the spouse who earns more money to the other individual. It is referred to as temporary spousal support because it provides financial assistance to the lesser earning spouse during the divorce proceedings, but it ends once a permanent spousal support award has been ordered.

Temporary spousal support may be calculated using a software program which automatically generates a support figure based on specific financial factors. The purpose of temporary support is to maintain the marital standard of living while the parties are in transition.

In contrast, permanent spousal support is ordered considering factors laid out in CA fam code 4320. The factors include:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The needs of each person based on the standard of living during the marriage;
  • The earning capacity of each party;
  • The age and health of both parties;
  • Debts and property;
  • Whether one party contributed to the education, training or career of the other party;
  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage;
  • Whether one party’s career was affected by staying home to take care of the children or other domestic duties.

Once the court considers these factors, then it will order spousal support as part of the final divorce judgment. It is the policy in California to support each spouse becoming self sufficient within a reasonable period of time.

Spousal support can be modified or terminated so long as the original order granting support does not contain language stating that the support is non-modifiable. To modify spousal support, the parties can either agree to change the amount or duration of support and enter into a written agreement which is filed with the court. If the parties can’t agree, then they may make a request with the court to determine whether spousal support duration or amounts should be modified.

For spousal support to be modified, the person requesting the modification must file a motion with the court and show that there has beena material change in circumstances from the time the original support order was made. For example, if the supporting party loses a job through no fault of his or her own and has had difficulty finding gainful employment, a court may order a reduction in the amount of support.

Similarly, you are also able to completely end the obligation to pay spousal support if you are able to show a change of circumstances that warrants termination. However, if the order was made to be non-terminable for a set amount of time, then you won’t be able to terminate it prior to that date. A support obligation automatically terminates upon the death of the supported spouse.

Spousal support is a very complicated area of divorce and often one of the most contentious issues as well. Having skilled legal advocates on your side during this process is invaluable and necessary to receive optimal results. Please call us at Davies Wegner Law to schedule a consultation with an attorney. The attorneys at our firm are experienced in negotiating spousal support and will fight ardently for you to ensure the most favorable result. We can be reached at 310-481-0300 to set up an appointment.