When a couple either legally separates from one another or files for dissolution of marriage, spousal support may come into play. This means that spousal support is not mandatory. Courts are given broad discretion to assess factors of every matter, on a case-by-case basis.
Temporary spousal support is usually awarded according to a standard math calculation using computer programs called DissoMaster or Xspouse (yes, that’s really what they’re called!). But in ordering “permanent” (probably more accurately referred to as “long-term”) spousal support, California Family Code Sections 4320 and 4330(a) highlight 14 factors which are considered in awarding spousal support. “Circumstances” such as these are considered:
- The party’s ability to maintain their marital standard of living in light of earning capacities;
- Whether or not either spouse contributed to the other spouse’s education or training to develop those skills;
- The supporting spouse’s ability to pay spousal support;
- The “needs” of each party in light of their marital standard of living;
- Each parties’ obligations, assets and separate property;
- How long the parties were married;
- The employability of the supported party against its impact on the children (if any);
- The age and health of the parties;
- Whether there is any history of domestic violence;
- Tax consequences to each party;
- The balancing of hardships to each party;
- The goal of self-support within a reasonable period of time;
- Whether any of the spouses has a criminal conviction of abuse — this will be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a support award; and
- Any other factors the court determines just and equitable — this is a “catch-all” phrase which allows the court broad discretion to consider other factors.
So, while the court exercises broad discretion in awarding spousal support in California, they must take these fourteen (14) “circumstances” in Family Code Section 4320 into consideration. Sometimes a “vocational exam” with a court ordered expert is appropriate, which helps determine a person’s ability and opportunities for employment. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for spousal support, or if you are unsure how much spousal support you will be awarded, it is advisable to seek an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
Authored by IRWIN & IRWIN.
IRWIN & IRWIN Family Law is located in Fullerton, California. We provide a full suite of family law services from divorce litigation, divorce mediation, child custody issues, domestic violence restraining orders and representing minors in court. “Every situation is different, and some come with very complex financial issues. Our legal team is here to support you during a very troubling time and prepare you for court, or to at least help negotiate or mediate the issues out to establish an equitable legal resolution,” says Kelly Irwin, Senior Litigator at the firm.