Spousal Support

Spousal support

When a couple legally separates or divorces, the court may order one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other party a certain amount of support money each month. This is called “spousal support” for married couples and “partner support” in domestic partnerships. It is sometimes also called “alimony.”

In order for spousal or partner support to be legally established and officially start, there must be a court case.

A spouse or domestic partner can ask the judge to make a spousal or partner support order as part of any one of these types of cases:

  • Divorce, legal separation, or annulment
  • A domestic violence restraining order.

Client Education

Types of Support

You can ask for spousal or partner support to be paid while your case is going on. This is called a “temporary spousal support order” or a “temporary partner support order.”

For temporary spousal or partner support, judges in many local courts generally use a formula to calculate the amount. Courts in different counties may use slightly different factors in calculating temporary support. For TEMPORARY support the court may rely on DISSOMASTER and other computer generated calculators to establish the appropriate amount of temporary support.

Support can also be ordered once the divorce or legal separation becomes final, as part of the final divorce or separation judgment. When it is ordered once the case becomes final, it is called “permanent (or long-term) spousal or partner support.”

The judge will not use a computer generated formula to figure out how much permanent spousal or partner support to order at the end of your case. When the judge makes his or her final spousal or partner support order, the judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320.

These factors include:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children;

  • The age and health of both people;

  • Debts and property;

  • Whether 1 spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license;

  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • Whether 1 spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and

  • The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws have not been changed to recognize domestic partnerships).

The spousal or partner support order then becomes part of your final divorce or legal separation judgment.