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Spousal support basics in California (part 2)

Last month we began looking in some detail at the reality of spousal support in California, in contrast to some popularly held misconceptions. Having reviewed the different situations in which spousal support may be awarded, let's continue with how courts go about calculating spousal support.

If you are requesting temporary support (i.e., payments to be made during the divorce process but before it is finalized), the court will simply apply a formula in order to determine the amount it will award. When making an award for longer-term spousal support, however, the court must base its award on a list of factors. A major one is how long the couple was married.

What difference does the duration of the marriage make? The judge will be trying to make a spousal support award that will help that partner for a reasonable amount of time as he or she transitions to becoming self-supporting. One rule of thumb is that the duration of spousal support can be around half of the length of time the couple was married, although a judge can award spousal support for more or less time depending on the situation. If, however, the couple was married for at least 10 years, alimony will generally be permanent, with no end date stipulated.

Other factors that will weigh on a spousal support ruling include each partner's ability to pay, as well as each partner's needs based on their standard of living while they were married. Here, a judge will look at an individual's job prospects based on their skills and whether any training will be needed to re-enter the job market (and if so, the expense and the time requirements for such training). The judge will also consider how much an individual's potential to earn money has been set back by the marriage - in other words, did you leave behind a lucrative career when you got married? If so, you may have a stronger case for greater spousal support than someone who did not.

We will continue our discussion in a follow-up post with additional factors in the spousal support calculation, including what happens in a case involving domestic violence. The information is intended to be general in nature, and should not be taken as specific legal advice.

Source: California Judicial Branch, "Spousal/Partner Support," accessed on Dec. 8, 2017

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