Spousal Support


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Spousal Support

Spousal support can be divided into temporary support, applicable during an ongoing family law case, and permanent support, extending beyond the case’s conclusion. Temporary spousal support is usually calculated similarly to child support, using a computer program. However, for permanent spousal support, the court must assess evidence and make factual findings following Family Code §4320.

For short-duration marriages (less than ten years), spousal support generally won’t exceed half the marriage’s length. In contrast, for long-duration marriages (over ten years), the court lacks authority to impose a termination date; support continues until death, remarriage, or further court order. Parties can agree on the amount and duration, even stipulating it as non-modifiable, regardless of future circumstances. It’s crucial to note that spousal support doesn’t automatically end if the supported spouse cohabitates. However, if the paying spouse files to reduce or terminate support, there’s a presumption that the cohabitating spouse has reduced support needs. This presumption is rebuttable.



For permanent spousal support, the court considers evidence and makes factual findings based on Family Code §4320. These factors include:

1. Earning capacity and ability to maintain the marital standard of living.
2. Impact of unemployment during the marriage on the supported party’s earning capacity.
3. Contribution to the other party’s education, training, career, or licensing.
4. Supporting party’s ability to pay.
5. Needs of each party based on the marital standard of living.
6. Obligations and assets of each party.
7. Duration of the marriage.
8. Supported party’s ability to work without unduly affecting dependent children.
9. Age and health of both parties.
10. Immediate tax consequences for each party.
11. Balance of hardships faced by each party.
12. Goal for the supported party to become self-supporting within a reasonable period.
13. Any other factors the court deems fair.

Determining permanent spousal support at trial is risky, as the court’s interpretation of facts is subjective. Merely showing one spouse outearns the other isn’t the sole criterion. If the requesting spouse hasn’t made efforts to become self-supporting and intentionally remained underemployed, the court may reserve support orders or issue a nominal support order based on these facts.

Unless agreed otherwise, spousal support is always modifiable upon showing a substantial change in circumstances. If the original order lacked a trial and findings on §4320 factors, it remains subject to modification.

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