As part of the separation, you and your former partner will have to decide what to do about spousal or partner support.
“Spousal support” is f money that the court orders one spouse to pay to the spouse who has been financially disadvantaged as a result of the relationship ending. The payment is called “partner support” if the family law case involves domestic partners. Spousal or partner support is sometimes also called “alimony.”
Before we continue, you should know that spousal and partner support are difficult legal issues. You should see a lawyer or get help from a family law facilitator in your court before you try to write an agreement or file court papers about spousal or partner support. The family law facilitator in your court may be able to help you for free to:
You can also find more information about forms and procedures from the California Courts Self-Help website at www.courts.ca.gov.
Now, let’s continue…
In California, a spouse or domestic partner can ask the judge to make a spousal or partner support order as part of a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case, or as part of a domestic violence restraining order. The spouse or partner can ask for “temporary orders” at the start of the case and “permanent orders” at the end of the case.
Temporary Spousal or Partner Support
The purpose of temporary support is to help a spouse or partner continue to live at the same level that he or she experienced before separation. The order is “temporary” because it is intended to end when the court makes a final (or permanent) support judgment in the case.
The amount of the temporary spousal or partner support order depends on one spouse’s (or partner’s) financial need and the other spouse’s (or partner’s) ability to pay the support. For this reason, a spouse or domestic partner who is capable of supporting him or herself following the end of the relationship may not be entitled to receive spousal or partner support.
A computer program is generally used to figure out the parties’ “financial need” and “ability to pay” and arrive at the dollar amount for temporary support. However, the court can adjust those numbers depending on the facts of each case. This can happen if the court finds that the financial need of one spouse or partner is higher or the ability of the other to pay is much greater or less than what the computer program calculated.
Permanent Spousal or Partner Support
Whether or not you have a temporary spousal or partner support order, you can ask the court to make a permanent or long-term spousal or partner support order as part of the final judgment in your case.
Amount of long term support
To determine how much long-term or permanent spousal or partner support to order as part of your judgment (if any) the judge cannot use a formula in a computer program. Instead, the judge must consider all of the factors listed in California Family Code section 4320. These factors include:
So when you ask the court to make a permanent or long-term spousal or partner support order, ask for an amount that takes into consideration these factors, and explain why you believe the amount you are asking for is reasonable based on those factors.
Duration of long term support
How long a spouse or partner has to pay the other permanent or long-term spousal or partner support is closely related to the length of the marriage or domestic partnership. The goal is for the spouse or partner getting support to be able to support himself or herself within a reasonable period of time.
The law generally says that a “reasonable period of time” may be one-half the length of the marriage/partnership. BUT the law also says that the judge can make a different decision based on the facts of the case.
There is an important exception. When a marriage or partnership is considered a “long-term” marriage or partnership (usually 10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date for the payments in the judgment.
Talk to a lawyer or to your court’s family law facilitator to learn more about permanent or long-term spousal or partner support.