Spousal Support California
When going through a divorce, you may have questions about paying or receiving spousal support (alimony). The knowledgeable family law attorneys at Hughes Law Group in Sacramento understand and guide their clients through this frustrating part of the divorce process. We understand the financial “factors” that Sacramento and Placer County courts use to determine temporary and permanent spousal support awards.
Spousal support is complex and is not awarded in all divorce cases. We can help reach an amicable resolution of spousal support issues or present the matter professionally to a judge.
Speak to a Spousal Support Lawyer Today or Set an Appointment Directly:
We offer either free 20-minute consultations or discounted one-hour initial consultations to answer many of your questions and discuss a personal strategy for your financial situation. We can explain spousal support in plain language that is easy to understand.
When is a review of my Spousal Support Order recommended?
Whenever you want, but definitely at any of these events:
- When the supporting spouse's income has increased and the original order was inadequate to meet the supported spouse's needs,
- A catastrophe, loss of employment or health challenge,
- When the supported spouse is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner,
- When a child support order terminates,
- When the supported spouse delays or refuses to seek employment consistent with his or her ability,
- When the supported spouse fails to complete an education program which should have led to a better job, or
- When the supporting spouse has a timely retirement.
Types of spousal support
Why Does the Court Order Temporary Spousal Support?
Temporary support is usually ordered to maintain the parties’ status quo until trial (or settlement) dividing their assets and obligations. The point is to maintain the living conditions and standards that the parties enjoyed while they were married (as much as possible). See Family Code §3600, Marriage of Burlini (1983) 143 Cal.App.3d 65, 68.
How Is Temporary Spousal Support Calculated in California?
Temporary Spousal Support is initially calculated using software such as DissoMaster or XSpouse. Sacramento County uses the “Santa Clara Formula”. Placer, El Dorado and Yolo Counties use the “Alameda County Formula”. This is a guideline that the judge has discretion to modify under special circumstances such as other support obligations, unusual taxes, or special expenses.
What Is the Difference Between Temporary Spousal Support and Permanent (Long Term) Spousal Support?
Temporary Spousal Support is awarded while the parties are still married. A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage of Legal Separation may be pending during this time. Post-Judgment Spousal Support is often referred to as “Permanent” or Long Term Spousal Support. For spousal support to be truly “Permanent” under all future circumstances however, it must be “Non-Modifiable” both in amount and in duration.
When does Temporary Spousal Support End?
Temporary Spousal Support ends when the Judgment of Dissolution of Judgment of Legal Separation is entered, when an appeal is final, when a case is dismissed or if the order expires under its own terms. When evidence is presented, judges can set a time when support should no longer be necessary. Temporary support would expire on that date (unless extended by further order).
Spousal Support FAQs
The court looks at the following sources of income for support: earnings and other income that would have been community income if the parties were still living together, community property assets, and even the separate property assets of the supporting spouse. See Family Code 4338.
The parties can agree to any figure they wish for spousal support. Agreeing to "DissoMaster 35% Formula" is one common method to avoid trial on spousal support. However, the divorce court judge cannot use the DissoMaster software to calculate long-term support. (See Marriage of Schulze (1997) 60 Cal. App. 4th 519). Keep in mind, though, that the trial judge may peek at the DissoMaster screen when estimating taxes or comparing the parties' net spendable income when setting a post-judgment spousal support order.
Generally, if your marriage was less than ten years, spousal support will be ordered paid for one-half the length of the marriage. The “length of marriage” is from the date of the marriage ceremony to the "date of separation". The "date of separation" is a factual issue, but usually means the first day that you lived separate and apart from your spouse.
If your marriage was more than ten years in length, expect that the Divorce Court will reserve jurisdiction over spousal support for an indefinite period. That doesn't necessarily mean that a marriage of a little over ten years results in a lifetime of spousal support. The Divorce Court just won't set an automatic termination date. This leaves open either spouse's ability to extend or cut off long-term support after the divorce judgment (until either party dies or the supported spouse remarries in which case spousal support terminates by law).
The California Legislature has declared that it is the goal of all California residents to use their best efforts to become self-supporting. The judge in your divorce case may be asked to "warn" the supported spouse that s/he needs to use reasonable efforts to provide for their own needs and that spousal support might be reduced in the future if they don't do so. See Family Code §4330. If the marriage is of long duration (in other words, more than ten years), it is less likely that the Divorce Court judge will give this warning.
Spousal Support orders may have automatic reductions over specific periods of time. These are sometimes referred to as "Richmond Orders". The parties can agree to scheduled reductions, but the Divorce Court will only make these orders if the trial record includes evidence that the supported spouse’s needs will decrease in line with the steps down. A typical step-down order may be based on the supported spouse’s earnings, such as reducing spousal support by $1.00 for every new $2.00 that the supported spouse receives in increased salary. Other types of reduction orders might be every year, every other year, or some other variant until support ends.