Determination of Spousal Support
Written by Justin Snell, Esq.
Spousal/Partner Support, sometimes referred to alimony is when a court orders one spouse or partner to pay a certain amount of money to the other spouse or partner each month. In order for the court to order spousal support, the parties must have separated (For a discussion on date of separation see the article on IRMO Davis).
“Temporary” vs. “Permanent” Support
In order for the Court to award spousal support, a party must file a Request for Order (FL-300) with the court. The Request for Order must state what the party is requesting (ie. Spousal support, child support, attorney’s fees, child custody, child visitation, etc.). In the early stages of the proceedings, a party can request temporary spousal support, meaning support for the duration of the case. Temporary support is different than permanent support which is ordered once a divorce becomes final either through a judgment or marital settlement agreement.
Temporary support is calculated by the court using a computer program. In Orange County, the court uses a program called Dissomaster. Dissomaster determines guideline spousal and child support. The report generated by Dissomaster is used to determine the amount of temporary spousal support.
Permanent support is determined by the application of Family Code § 4320. FC §4320 lists multiple factors that a judge may consider when determining permanent spousal support:
• The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
• Determination of the marital standard of living and what each spouse/partner needs to maintain that standard of living;
• 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;
• Community debts, community property, separate property and separate debts;
• Whether one 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 one 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
No one factor is determinative. The process of determining the martial standard of living is a complex and fact intensive process.