How Spousal Support Is Determined

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a type of financial support awarded to one spouse during a divorce case. Divorce alimony is designed to allow them to maintain standard of living that’s reasonably consistent with what they enjoyed during the marriage.

This support can come in a wide variety of amounts, and could be permanent or temporary, depending on some of the conditions of the case. Each state has its own guidelines for how courts will award alimony to recipients.

In every state, spousal support is gender neutral; it’s not awarded only to women or to men. The rule all states follow is that the requesting spouse needs financial support and the other spouse is capable of providing it. If this very basic circumstance is not true, then a court is unlikely to award alimony. Indeed, not all divorce cases will include alimony arrangements, especially if both spouses have a similar earning capacity.

So, how do California courts award divorce alimony? Here’s an overview of what you should know.

Temporary support requests

For requests of temporary spousal support, courts will gather financial information from each spouse, including information about income, assets, debts and expenses, and determine an amount using a specific formula applied to all temporary requests. The process is quite objective and generally faster than determining amounts for requests of permanent support.

Other types of support requests

When a person requests other types of spousal support (permanent or rehabilitative) in the state, courts determine the income level of each spouse, as well as other factors such as:

  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s debts and assets, which can include separate property
  • The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage and how that will affect each spouse’s needs moving forward
  • Each spouse’s capability to pay spousal support when considering factors such as earned and unearned income, income capacity, standard of living and assets
  • The age and health of each party involved in the case
  • The supported spouse’s ability to eventually become employed while still caring for minor children
  • Any documented history of domestic violence against either party or any children
  • Hardships suffered by each party and how those hardships balance
  • Whether the recipient spouse intends to become self-supporting after a reasonable amount of time
  • Any criminal convictions of a spouse, particularly for issues of abuse
  • The amount of money spent on one spouse seeking a new career or re-education to increase their earning capacity and ability to support themselves

Spouses can request modifications to spousal support arrangements at any time, so long as they are capable of demonstrating significant changes of circumstances since the original order was established. There must be good reason for making a change. Otherwise, the support will last as it was originally planned, or until certain financial benchmarks are met.

For more information about divorce alimony and how judges determine spousal support amounts, reach out to an experienced California financial expert at Medina & Company Consulting today.