Spousal support or partner support, formerly known as alimony in California, is an area of family law that is plagued by public misconceptions and misinformation. It is also often a complex part of a divorce, determined by many factors, some or all of which may change over the course of the proceedings and/or may years later.

During the pendency of a divorce or dissolution of domestic partnership case, temporary spousal support orders are often based on a formula, applied through a software program called DissoMaster. DissoMaster incorporates the parties’ respective incomes and other financial information to calculate a temporary dollar amount of support.

At the conclusion of a divorce case, “permanent” spousal support is calculated by considering the factors listed in Family Code Section 4320. “Permanent” is somewhat of a misnomer, as permanent support may be modifiable.

Family Code Section 4320 factors considered by the court include the following:

  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age and health of the parties;
  • 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 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;
  • Domestic violence or criminal conviction of an abusive spouse;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

Once spousal support is established, enforcement, modification, and termination all may require further court orders or written agreement. The attorneys at Youngman Reitshtein, PLC represent individuals with spousal support at issue in their divorce, whether it is determining eligibility to receive spousal support, requesting or modifying support, calculating the dollar amount of support and the duration of support, or enforcement of support orders.