California Spousal Support Basics

Issues regarding California spousal support usually arises in every divorce. Spousal support allows a lower earning spouse to maintain the marital standard of living post-divorce. The goal of spousal support is to make sure the lower earning spouse maintains financial security during and after a divorce.

The higher earning spouse pays the lower earning spouse a sum of money over a specified period of time. The parties can negotiate for spousal support to be paid in one lump sum, or by an equalization payment involving the transfer of community property assets. Support can also be paid in-kind by the paying spouse making mortgage or car loan payments on behalf of the lower earning spouse.

Below is a detailed overview of California spousal support basics. Contact San Diego Esquire for more information about the affordable legal services we provide to California residents seeking to obtain, modify, or terminate a spousal support order.

What is the difference between temporary and permanent spousal support?

Temporary spousal support orders are granted to maintain the financial marital status quo during the divorce process. California Family Law Code section 3600 allows a court to grant a temporary spousal support order during the pendency of divorce proceedings. Most counties adhere to guideline formulas that are presumed to equitably distribute the family’s income. The most common guideline formulas used include Santa Clara and Alameda. Courts commonly use the DissoMaster program to calculate guideline spousal support. Use our California spousal support calculator to obtain an estimate of the amount of support you may pay or receive.

The court must weigh specific factors when issuing a permanent spousal support order. Such factors are set forth in California Family Law Code section 4320. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The income of both spouses;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age and health of each spouse;
  • Any documented history of domestic violence;
  • The specific and immediate tax consequences of each spouse;
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay support; and
  • The extent in which the supported spouse contributed to the other spouse’s attainment of education, training, professional licensing, or career advancement.

How long can I receive spousal support?

There is a common misconception that couples who divorce after ten years of marriage may be subject to pay alimony indefinitely. In California, a court will retain jurisdiction over divorces involving marriages of long duration (greater than ten years). This means the court can modify court orders post-divorce for long term marriages.  As a general practice, courts may order spousal support for half the length of a marriage which lasted less than ten years.

How do I modify or terminate my spousal support order?

You must file a Request for Order to modify a spousal support order. The moving party must show a change in circumstances to warrant a modification to the support order. For example, if the supported spouse’s income greatly increases, the paying spouse may file an RFO requesting to terminate support payments altogether.

Can I deduct spousal support payments from my taxes?

The spousal support payor may deduct spousal support payments from his/her taxes. In addition, the receiving spouse must pay taxes on the support received.

Contact San Diego Esquire to obtain more information about California spousal support basics.

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About the Author:

Kymeshia Morris Esq., founder of San Diego Esquire has practiced law in California since 2012. During her career as a lawyer, she has co-authored legal publications and self-help articles. Kymeshia is dedicated to providing affordable legal services to California businesses and individuals.

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