Key Factors to Determine Spousal Support in California

When you’re going through a divorce, one of the major financial considerations will be spousal support (commonly known as alimony) in California. This is a court-ordered payment from one party to the other following divorce. Usually, these payments are only ordered when the divorce will cause a significant change in lifestyle for the partner who no longer has access to the funds the other spouse still has.

We hear from clients all the time concerned about how spousal support is calculated and how the process works. We want to help our clients better understand the types of spousal support and how each is calculated. The divorce process can include plenty of surprises, but it’s better to be as prepared as reasonably possible when you go through it.

The types of spousal support

There are three main types and both are relatively self-explanatory: permanent, temporary, and rehabilitative. As the names indicate, permanent spousal support will be support throughout the life of each spouse while temporary is set over a determined period of time. Rehabilitative support generally applies when one spouse makes a larger portion or all of the money in the family and the other spouse needs time to create earning potential.

Permanent spousal support can be altered over time, but these cases are rare as the courts will normally only order them when a long-term marriage is ending where one of the spouses can not reasonably be expected to enter the workforce.

Temporary spousal support is most often applied during the divorce process and often ends once the courts finalize the divorce. These payments allow the receiving spouse to pay for living expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and other necessities while the divorce process plays out.

Rehabilitative is another form of temporary spousal support. In this case, the support will extend beyond the timeline of the divorce to provide for the receiving spouse while they grow the necessary skills, education, and/or training to enter the workforce at a reasonable income level. These types of payments can take place over the course of several years.

Calculating temporary spousal support

When a spouse requests spousal support and the courts agree temporary support is needed, there is an actual calculator used by the courts. This calculator considers factors from both spouses’ financial circumstances such as income, taxes, dependents, health insurance deductions, and more. Online tools like this one can give you a close idea of how much you owe or will be paid if the court awards temporary spousal support.

Calculating permanent and rehabilitative support

These types require a more involved process with the courts. There is no exact “calculator” that determines the final support number. Instead, the courts will consider a number of factors before reaching a final number.

Family Code Section 4320 provides the specific information the courts will take into account, including:

  • Marketable skills and job market for the receiving spouse
  • Time and funding required to acquire marketable skills, education, and training
  • How much unemployment periods during the marriage impact future earning potential
  • Income and ability of the supporting spouse to make spousal support payments
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Overall assets and how those assets are split
  • Dependent children
  • Domestic violence and emotional distress caused by it (by either party)

The courts can use other factors to determine the final number, but these are the most specific examples laid out by California law. What’s important to know is these types of support aren’t set in stone and either party can fight for their right to support or for their autonomy post-divorce.

The best way to get what you want and need out of your divorce is to have the right family law attorney by your side. Contact Carroll Law Office today and let us help you simplify life’s complexities.