Temporary Alimony Orders in a California Divorce
Alimony orders during the divorce
Temporary Alimony Orders in California
Temporary alimony (also called spousal support) is a common request in a divorce. A request for order filed with the court causes a court date for the hearing. That request for order is then served on the other spouse.
At the hearing, the court determines whether the requesting spouse should receive temporary alimony.
The biggest difference between temporary alimony and alimony at the trial or judgment phase is the court often relies on the computer program that also calculates child support. California law only allows this for temporary alimony. But that does not mean a Family Court can always resort to the program.
Family Code 3600 states:
“During the pendency of any proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties or under Division 8 (commencing with Section 3000) (custody of children) or in any proceeding where there is at issue the support of a minor child or a child for whom support is authorized under Section 3901 or 3910, the court may order (a) either spouse to pay any amount that is necessary for the support of the other spouse, consistent with the requirements of subdivisions (i) and (m) of Section 4320 and Section 4325, or (b) either or both parents to pay any amount necessary for the support of the child, as the case may be.”
Family Code 3602 states: “Unless the order specifies otherwise, an order made pursuant to this chapter is not enforceable during any period in which the parties have reconciled and are living together.”
Family Code 3603 states: “An order made pursuant to this chapter may be modified or terminated at any time except as to an amount that accrued before the date of the filing of the notice of motion or order to show cause to modify or terminate.”
Family Code 3604 states: “An order made pursuant to this chapter does not prejudice the rights of the parties or the child with respect to any subsequent order which may be made.”
The references to Family Code 4320 (i) and (m) are important because they relate to domestic violence. California has a clear public policy that perpetrators of domestic violence, those found to have committed it, should not under certain circumstances receive spousal support. That is because California law does not want an abused spouse to finance the abuser's lifestyle. One of the biggest considerations is whether the domestic violence is documented or, even more important, if a court has made a finding of domestic violence.
The domestic violence issues are beyond the scope of this page but what you should take away is that temporary support for a domestic violence perpetrator, even if he or she is a significant lower income earner, is not automatic. These issues can become complex and contentious.
The other code sections we cited above should be self-explanatory. A temporary spousal support order does not mean either spouse is stuck with that number by the time the case gets to the judgment phase. The court cannot even rely on the computer program or rely much on the temporary order when it determines the final order. And either spouse may seek a modification of the temporary order if there are facts to justify the modification.
Child support impacts spousal support and that is true both for temporary spousal support or the judgment number. Child support keeps spousal support lower because a spouse who pays child support has less disposable income left over to pay spousal support.
One scenario to watch out for is when the higher earning spouse is earning more income after separation compared to the marital standard of living. If this discrepancy is significant, simply punching in the income number into the computer program would produce an unreasonable number because the marital standard of living was never based on that higher post-separation income.
That does depend on the amount of the difference and if it is not a significant difference, a court may not care. But if the difference is significant, the paying spouse should in his opposing papers and at the hearing explain the situation to the court and why relying on the computer program and current income would lead to an unreasonable result.
We hope you enjoyed this page on temporary spousal support. To learn more, visit the additional alimony pages linked below.