When a couple legally separates or divorces, the court may order one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other 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.” There are big differences in temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support as discussed below.
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.
The Superior Courts of Orange County and Los Angeles County have informally adopted a guideline called the Santa Clara Guideline formula for use in setting temporary spousal support. This guideline provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of his or her net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.
The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as “ordinary income.”
At the court hearing, the judge is not concerned about the employability of the wife or the spouse who is requesting support. At this stage, the judge simply wants to preserve the status quo and provide the wife with sufficient income for her basic needs, consistent with the parties’ lifestyle. While you may need to find employment in the future, the court does not expect someone who has been the primary caretaker of the children or a homemaker to seek immediate employment.
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 formula to figure out how much 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:
A good lawyer can help you enumerate the factors above in your favor when determining the amount of permanent spousal support.
Depends. Generally speaking, if your marriage lasted less than 10 years, you may only be required to pay spousal support for ½ the duration of the marriage. For example, if your marriage lasted 6 years, you may only be required to pay for 3 years.
But keep in mind, the law also says that the judge has discretion (power) to make a different decision given the specific circumstances of the case.
When a marriage or partnership is considered a “long-term” marriage or partnership (10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date to the spousal or partner support. This does not necessarily mean that you will pay spousal support for the rest of your life, but you potentially could. If circumstances change Â– if your ex gets remarried for example, you can end your spousal support.
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