Pakpour Banks LLP provides legal services to individuals involved in Spousal Support disputes.

During marriage, spouses have a duty to support one another, under the California Family Code. That duty may continue once spouses separate, depending on the circumstances of the case.

There are two types of spousal support: temporary spousal support pending a final judgment, and spousal support ordered once the judgment has been entered.

Temporary spousal support is, much like child support, very formulaic. During the pendency of any proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court may order the husband or wife to pay any amount that is necessary for the support of the wife or husband. (See California Family Code section 3600). Each county computes a “guideline” temporary spousal support amount based upon the party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. (See In re Marriage of Winter, 7 Cal. App. 4th 1926, 1932 (1992)). The purpose is to “maintain the living conditions and standards of the parties in as close to the status quo position as possible pending trial and the division of their assets and obligations.” Subject only to the general “need” and “ability to pay,” the amount of temporary spousal support lies within the court’s sound discretion. Courts typically refer to “Guidelines” in an effort to determine temporary spousal support. The use of such guidelines has been held to be a valuable tool in calculating temporary support. (See In re Marriage of Wittgrove, 120 Cal. App. 4th 1317, 1327-28 (2004)).

Post-judgment spousal support is determined using an entirely different model. California Family Code section 4320 covers 14 different factors the court must consider before ordering support. These include – but are not limited to – how much each party is able to maintain the pre-separation standard of living, how much one party contributed to the other’s education or career, the duration of the marriage, and the ability of either party to support him or herself.

Duration: How long spousal support will be ordered may depend upon the length of the marriage. While it is not a law, attorneys and judges often differentiate between “long-term” and “short-term” marriages. Marriages over 10 years are considered by many to be long-term marriages, while marriages lasting fewer than 10 years are considered to be short-term marriages. For short-term marriages (those lasting less than 10 years), post-judgment support is typically ordered to be paid for a time equal to half the life of the marriage. For long-term marriages, post-judgment support is typically ordered to be paid until either spouse dies, the supported spouse remarries, or upon order of the court. Note: these are general impressions. In other words, there is no law dictating this duration.

Stipulations: Spousal support orders can take on myriad shapes and forms when the parties come to an agreement on the amount, duration, etc., before trial. For example, parties can agree to a “step-down” arrangement, where support is decreased over several intervals of time.