Two types of spousal support exist, temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support. The purpose behind temporary spousal support is to maintain the living conditions and standards of both parties until permanent support has been determined, along with the final division of assets and debts. The purpose of the permanent spousal support is different. It is to provide the spouse with sufficient income for their basic needs and to ensure that their lifestyle will be able to remain consistent after the divorce.
As a general rule, in long-term marriage (10 years or more), permanent spousal support lasts until remarriage of the spouse, death, or further order of the court. This means you could be paying spousal support for life. As a general rule, in short-term marriages (less than 10 years), support is payable for half the term of the marriage. For example, if you were married for four years, you may be ordered to pay support for two years.
Spousal support is not guaranteed. The court must consider the law before ordering spousal support.
Family Code Section 4320. In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances:
- The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:
- The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
- The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.
- The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
- The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
- The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
- The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.
- The age and health of the parties
- Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.
- The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
- The balance of the hardships to each party.
- The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.
- The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.
- Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.
What is a permanent spousal support award is ordered and I lose my job or make a lot less money?
You will need to file a Request for Order (RFO) motion to modify the original spousal support order based on a material change in circumstances based on the Family Code Section 4320 factors. This request depends on how the original order was made. Speaking with an attorney and evaluating the litigation costs associated with such a motion and the likelihood of success is recommended.