How Is Spousal Support Determined in California?

Spousal Support

Alimony, or spousal support, is used to help one spouse with a sudden loss of income after a divorce. In many relationships, one spouse will generate more income than the other, and the couple relies on the total revenue between the spouses to maintain their household. When income is suddenly removed, that can result in serious lifestyle changes for one or both spouses.

Spousal supportĀ is usually a periodic payment that one spouse will provide to the other to help deal with the shock of having far less income as a single person compared to a married couple. The higher earner will allow the lower earner to maintain his or her lifestyle for at least some period of time.

Calculating Spousal Support in California

Technically, there is no set formula for determining spousal support in California. Instead, judges are directed to consider a number of factors in deciding whether spousal support is appropriate and how much it should be. However, in practice, many counties will use a rough formula to create a starting point and then make adjustments from there.

For example, in Santa Clara County, California, the court will take 40% of the net income of the person who would pay spousal support, minus 50% of the receiving spouse’s income to determine a potential spousal award amount. The calculation is adjusted for taxes and disregards child support or child-related expenses.

Other Factors the Court Will Consider

Despite Santa Clara County’s relatively simple and straightforward calculation, courts should consider many factors in determining whether spousal support is appropriate. By law, the court must take into account:

  • The earning capacity of each spouse, which includes the individual’s marketable skills, education, and training, in addition to the current job market for those skills
  • The extent that future earning capacity was impaired or inhibited by periods of unemployment during the marriage for domestic duties
  • The extent that one spouse supported the other to obtain education or career advancement
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support
  • The obligations and assets of each party
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Child care considerations
  • Any history of documented domestic violence
  • Tax consequences for each spouse
  • Any criminal convictions or abuse

The goal behind spousal support is that one spouse will support the other while he or she becomes self-supporting. Generally, spousal support will terminate within a time frame that is no longer than one-half of the length of the marriage, if the marriage lasted less than ten years. However, in longer marriages, support can continue indefinitely.

Whether you are attempting to get spousal support or trying to decrease or avoid it, having an experienced California family law attorney on your side can help you get the result that you would like. Contact Kayleene H. Writer today for more information.