Temporary vs. Permanent Spousal Support in CA

man giving woman alimony money

What Is Temporary Spousal Support?

If either spouse needs financial assistance or maintenance after deciding to separate but before the divorce or legal separation has been finalized, s/he can petition the court for temporary, or pendente lite (pending litigation), spousal support. You can file a petition for temporary spousal support as soon as your case is filed. Temporary support orders are typically filed in conjunction with divorce, legal separation, dissolution of registered domestic partnership, or domestic violence restraining order cases.

If you and your spouse can agree on a fair amount, the court can simply sign off on agreed temporary alimony terms. However, if you cannot agree on a fair amount, a judge will have to decide on the amount of temporary support. In making a determination, a judge will base a request for temporary alimony on the respective incomes of the parties, the number of minor children the parties have and the children’s respective timeshares with each parent, tax deductions, health insurance payments, mandatory retirement contributions and union dues, among other items.

How Is Temporary Spousal Support (Alimony) Calculated in California?

The court will calculate the amount of support needed by using a software program called DissoMaster. You will need to have completed an Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150) so the court has all the necessary financial data to run a DissoMaster Report for guideline spousal support.

For example, if Spouse A earns $5,000 gross (before taxes) each month and Spouse B earns $2,500, and the spouses have no minor children, the temporary spousal support recommendation would be $608 per month payable by Spouse A to Spouse B. However, if the couple also has two minor children that they share 50/50, then temporary spousal support amount is reduced to $260 per month because Spouse A would also have to pay child support in the amount of $649 per month (making the total child and spousal support owed $909 per month), payable by Spouse A to Spouse B.

If you have been served or plan to file for divorce or legal separation, you should consult with an attorney who can advise you with regard to your case specifics.

What Is Permanent Spousal Support?

Permanent spousal support (i.e. long-term spousal support) refers to the monthly payments that are paid or received after a divorce or legal separation is finalized. The duration of these payments can be negotiated, however if they case is litigated it could be from half the length of the marriage, or if the marriage is over 10 years, it could be until either party dies, the supported party remarries, or until further court order. The amount of these monthly payments is based upon the marital standard of living. The supporting party can ask that the supported party be ordered to become self-supporting within a reasonable time period.

In becoming self-supporting, the party receiving support can take time to adjust and gain more training, education, and/or work experience to better support themselves. Thus, judges may include certain clauses in the order for permanent support, such as:

  • Spousal support step-downs. With this clause, the amount of support will decrease at a certain time. Courts usually include this clause if evidence is presented that the spouse receiving support will earn more money in the future; this clause can also be used to encourage the supported party to become more self-sufficient.
  • Conditions that will terminate support. With this clause, the support will end once the supported party is self-sufficient or reaches a certain milestone towards self-sufficiency. For instance, a spouse who left the workforce for five years to raise the couple’s children may not be able to return to the workforce and receive a position comparable to the one they left; they may also need more experience or education before rejoining the workforce. This spouse may receive permanent spousal support with the condition that the support will end once they complete college.
  • Cohabitation. If the supported party cohabitates with a new romantic partner, one who is providing financially for the supported party, this can be a reason for the judge to terminate or reduce the financial maintenance provided by the other party.
  • Reservation of jurisdiction. Sometimes support orders include a time or conditions in which support will be terminated. With reservation of jurisdiction, a judge maintains the legal authority to issue further orders when needed and appropriate.
  • Vocational evaluations. The supported spouse may be required to submit to a vocational evaluation, which will determine his/her ability to get a job and the amount of money that could be earned in that job, should the supported party work. This earning capacity could be used to reduce the amount of money paid by the supporting party, whether or not the supported party actually worked.

How Is Long-Term Spousal Support Determined?

Unlike with temporary spousal support, long-term spousal support is not calculated using a formula and instead takes into account the marital standard of living. The courts will consider many factors (see Family Code section 4320 for an entire list) when determining the marital standard of living:

  • Each spouse’s ability to earn enough money to maintain their standard of living (with respect to their marketable skills, the current job market, the training need to become marketable, etc.)
  • Each spouse’s age
  • Each spouse’s health
  • Each spouse’s needs
  • Each spouse’s debts and assets (i.e. their separate property)
  • How the recipient spouse supported the paying spouse during the marriage (i.e. via support or contribution to their education or professional license)
  • The goal of the recipient spouse becoming more self-sufficient
  • The length of the marriage
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay
  • The standard of living established during the marriage (vacations, cars, houses, savings, investments, debts)
  • Whether either party has a documented history of domestic violence against the other party or the children
  • Any other relevant factors

How Long Is Permanent Alimony in California?

Permanent spousal support is not necessarily permanent. Not only can the support orders be modified but they may also end in certain cases. As we mentioned, once a spouse becomes self-supporting, their spousal support may end depending on the terms of their spousal support agreement.

However, with marriages that last for at least 10 years, the court will retain jurisdiction indefinitely (unless the couple has a settlement agreement or judge’s order to the contrary). This continued jurisdiction allows a judge to extend, reinstate, or modify spousal support, and the supported spouse may not need to become self-sufficient.

Consult with Our Experienced Attorneys Today

Backed by over 60 years of collective experience, Kraft Miles, A Law Corporation attorneys are equipped to help you navigate your divorce and its related issues, including spousal support determinations. We understand how impactful the financial strain of divorce and one household becoming two can be, which is why we commit ourselves to being trustworthy advocates for our clients. Whether you need help as the party receiving or paying alimony, our spousal support attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and help you protect your interests.

We also handle a wide variety of other divorce-related matters, including:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Property division
  • Mediation
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

Schedule a case consultation today by calling (818) 462-5076 or reaching out online today.

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