Spousal Support Calculation, Duration, And Modification

In this article, you will learn…

  • How spousal support is calculated in California,
  • How long you have to pay spousal support, and
  • How to modify an order for spousal support.

How Is Alimony Or Spousal Support Calculated In California?

In California, we tend to use spousal support more than the word alimony, though they are interchangeable. There two kinds of spousal support:

  • Temporary spousal support, and
  • Permanent spousal support.

Temporary spousal support is meant to last the frequency or duration of the solution process. When you’ve been living with dual incomes for a long period of time and then suddenly that household is splitting, temporary spousal support can be issued to the lower wage earner to assist them in acclimating to their new situation.

Temporary spousal support usually lasts while the divorce is in process. It can also tend to be higher than what permanent support will be for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that the party should be receiving their community portion of the assets once the divorce is finalized, which will put them in a better financial situation.

The real goal of temporary spousal support is to help the supported spouse become self-sufficient. They want to encourage that person to support themselves the further they get away from the date of separation. Temporary spousal support can be calculated using the same dissomaster calculator that is used for child support.

If you have children, you can check the little box when you’re running the calculator to ask it to run child support and spousal support. There is also the ability to turn off the child support function and just run the spousal support calculation. This is only permitted for temporary spousal support, however. You can’t use the dissomaster to calculate permanent spousal support.

There is a family code that sets out all the factors for how to determine spousal support and it is a very subjective standard. After custody, spousal support is probably one of the highest legitimate issues in divorce because it is so subjective.

Temporary spousal support should come as close as possible to helping the supported spouse maintain what we call a marital standard of living. That is looking at what the lifestyle of the parties was during the marriage. It isn’t always possible to get the amount of money the supported spouse needs to maintain that standard, but they try to get it as close as they can.

When you have two incomes that have to support two households instead of one household, it’s not always possible to maintain the marital standard of living and the supporting spouse may not have the finances to support the other spouse. The next question is how can we make it as equitable as possible for both parties. That’s the framework that’s used in determining how to calculate what spousal support should be for the supported party.

In some cases, the party receiving spousal support may be paying child support to the other party, so there could be offsets. With opposing orders for support, the party who owes more would end up paying the balance of whatever the orders offset.

How Long Will I Have To Pay Alimony Or Spousal Support In California?

There is no hard and fast rule for how long you will have to pay alimony or spousal support in California. There is a guideline that states that if the marriage was for a long duration, usually for more than 10 years, the support can go on in all perpetuity.

If the marriage is less than 10 years, the general rule is that support will continue for half the duration of the marriage. So, if you were married for five years, support will last for two and a half years.

A lot of people think that this is a law or a hard and fast rule, but it isn’t. It’s discretionary for multiple reasons. The guideline is just a general framework that is utilized but people deviate from it based on multiple factors.

Even in long-term marriages, even though nothing is saying that spousal support has to terminate, there can be incentives to slowly fade out spousal support. The goal is that the supported party becomes self-supporting, so there can be step-down orders where they will receive a certain amount for a certain number of years and then step down to a lower amount for a certain number of years and so on until they aren’t receiving anything at all.

Sometimes, when the parties need retirement, that can be kind of a cut-out point. There’s no rule that spousal support has to terminate at any point in a marriage of ten years or more, though.

If I Can No Longer Afford Spousal Support Payments Can I Petition For A Reduction?

If you can no longer afford spousal support payments, you can petition for a reduction only to a certain extent. Support can be modified after a judgment is final in most cases, but sometimes part of the agreement that has been reached is that spousal support isn’t modifiable.

Sometimes the parties will have added language in the order that says that the court’s ability to modify that order terminates the date when the order is filed. Other times, a party might have said they are going to pay spousal support until a certain date, and then they will no longer pay support. At that time, the court’s jurisdiction to modify support is terminated.

If the parties agreed that the court no longer has the jurisdiction to modify support, then you are stuck with whatever the order is unless you can reach a different agreement with the other party.

If there isn’t language put into the order to terminate the court’s jurisdiction, then spousal support will always be modifiable. It’s only ever back to the date that the motion is filed, though, so it’s a good idea to file your motion even if you think you may reach an agreement with the other party.

If you do end up reaching an agreement with the other party, you can always take the motion off the calendar. Having it is only going to protect you, so that if you aren’t able to reach an agreement, you haven’t lost that month of retroactively modifying your support order.

For more information on Calculation Of Spousal Support In California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (408) 909-4586 today.

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