When a couple legally separates or divorces, many factors affect spousal support in California. Some people assume they’ll receive a particular dollar amount, only to be disappointed that’s not the case. Let’s take a look so that you can be as informed as possible as you go through the proceedings.
Calculating Spousal or Partner Support
While judges will usually use a formula to calculate the amount of temporary spousal support, this will not be the case when it comes to a ruling when a divorce is final.
To calculate this final amount, a judge will look at several factors that will change from case to case. These include:
- How long the couple was married
- The standard of living they had during their marriage or domestic partnership and what they need based upon that
- What each party can afford to pay to maintain the standard of living they had
- Each person’s age and health
- Debts & property
- Domestic violence issues
- Whether one party helped the other get an education, career, or professional license
- Whether one party took care of the children and whether this affected their career
- Whether one party was unemployed
- Taxes on spousal support amount
Once a judge weighs all of these factors, he or she will determine an amount that the court deems is reasonable.
Factors that Require a Closer Look
While several of the factors that a judge must consider when deciding how much spousal support someone can receive are pretty cut and dry, there are a few that require some more in-depth understanding.
Earning Capacity & Standard of Living
When a judge is looking at the earning capacity and the standard of living, he or she is specifically looking at what each spouse can earn to keep a standard of living close to what they were used to when they were married. Marketable job skills and the current job market are taken into consideration as well as how much time and money the partner getting the support will need to get the education and/or training to get a job (if they are not employed). If one partner was unemployed or took time off to take care of the children, a judge will look at the extent that their earning capacity was impacted.
Length of Marriage or Domestic Partnership
The period of time a party will receive spousal support is closely linked to how long they were together. The goal is that the party getting the spousal support will receive it for as long as it takes for them to be able to support themselves, within a reasonable period of time.
That amount of time may be equal to half of the length of the marriage. But, a judge can change that due to specific circumstances of each case. It’s also vital to know that if a marriage was long-term (usually lasting ten years or more), a judge might not set an end date for spousal support.
If the party that will receive spousal support is the victim of domestic abuse, the judge will consider any emotional distress when deciding the amount of support. A judge will also look at whether the person who will receive spousal support has a criminal conviction for domestic violence against the other spouse.
If either party desires a change in the judge’s order on spousal support, they will need to show a change in circumstances since the order was made; something significant needs to have changed for this to happen. If both parties can agree on a new amount, they can write it up as an agreement and give it to a judge to sign so that it becomes the new court order.
Spousal support is an important topic for many divorcing couples in California; if you have questions or need help understanding your current situation, please feel free to contact me.