Spousal Support (often called alimony) in a family law case is primarily based on (1) the husband and wife’s standard of living that they established during their marriage and (2) each of their needs and abilities to pay.
In Family Court, spousal support comes in two forms – temporary support and permanent support. Let’s look at each.
Temporary Spousal Support in a California Divorce Case
Temporary support is generally based on each spouse’s income and other factors that are inputted into a computer program called dissomaster or x-spouse. That computer program is the same one used by experienced Orange County divorce lawyers as well as Family Court judges. That program provides the judge with a temporary alimony number until the divorce case can proceed to trial.
Is that computer program the final word on temporary spousal support? No. Not every case is going to reach a fair result by relying on the program. That is because the program’s conclusion on what the “net” disposable income is for support may not be consistent with reality. What are some of the things the Family Court may look at in deciding whether or not to deviate from the computer program? Here are just a few:
- Income may not be fixed and will change soon and that change is provable in Court. We have seen this happen when a spouse faces a coming layoff, demotion or other change.
- The computer program doesn’t know what the marital lifestyle was and if a spouse’s income is completely inconsistent with the marital lifestyle (because the income has significantly increased since the date of separation), a deviation may be necessary.
- In cases where there has been a lengthy delay between the date of separation and the alimony request, the person being asked to pay alimony may argue that spousal support is not necessary because there is no “status quo” or lifestyle to maintain and that both the husband and wife have been doing just fine without it.
Let’s discuss permanent spousal support.
Permanent Spousal Support in a California Divorce Case
There are two things you should know about permanent support.
First, there really is no such thing as permanent support. Support can be modified or terminated. Second, it is not based on a computer program. In fact, the Family Court Judges are specifically forbidden by the California Family Code to rely on the computer program to determine what the trial support order should be. Instead, the trial support order is based on Family Code section 4320 which enumerates thirteen different factors the Court should rely upon when evaluating whether or not to award alimony and, if so, how much. These thirteen factors are discussed in our FAQ about Spousal Support page.
Modification of Spousal Support in a California Divorce case
Once alimony is awarded, whether temporary or at trial, it can be modified with a showing of a significant change in circumstances. That is typically accomplished by the filing of a request for an order in Family Court whereby the person receiving support or the one paying it demonstrates to the Court that one or more of the incomes have changed.
The person paying support can demonstrate that his or her income has decreased or the supported person’s income has increased. The supported person may seek a modification because his or her income has gone down. Other circumstances that may require the modification of support are situations where the supported spouse starts to live with a member of the opposite sex, the supported party is receiving recurring gifts of money from a parent or other persons or the supported party no longer has a need for ongoing support. There are numerous other situations that could trigger a modification request and our experienced Orange County divorce lawyers can assist you in determining whether your situation justifies a modification or not.
Termination of Spousal Support in a California Divorce Case
Spousal support, absent the agreement of the parties, is generally terminated upon the remarriage of the supported spouse, the death of either spouse or, in cases of a short term marriage (less than 10 years), the passing of one-half the duration of the marriage. Spousal Support can also be terminated in a long term marriage in various situations including but not limited to where the supported person refuses to become self supporting and the evidence against that spouse is compelling.
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