California Lawyer Family Law Spousal Support




Spousal support is of two types: temporary and permanent. Temporary is also known as pendente lite or interim spousal support. A court may only set temporary spousal support until the parties independently reach an agreement or until completion of trial. Only after trial and having heard all the available evidence, may a court set permanent spousal support. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to help maintain the status quo in living conditions pending an agreement or trial sets a permanent spousal support amount. A properly drawn premarital or post-nuptial agreement may also set temporary and/or permanent spousal support.


In setting temporary spousal support, California courts frequently, but not universally, rely on software calculated amounts generated from income and expense information as testified to on each party's Income & Expense Declaration. Where used, it is similar to the calculation of child support amounts. Indeed, the same software generates both support amounts as the basic data relied upon is the same.


Permanent spousal support serves a different purpose from temporary spousal support in that it is for the assisted spouse's ability to live in conjunction with what is earned or may likely be earned. To determine this, the court has wide discretion but must be guided by 14 specific factors found in Family Law Code section 4320. Permanent spousal support is usually lower than temporary spousal support and is not forever. In short marriages generally thought of as 10 years or less, support is typically set for half the length of the marriage. In long marriages, it is more likely to be for the life of the supported spouse. Spousal support terminates on the death or re-marriage of the supported spouses. It may be modified based on material changes in circumstances such as the retirement of the paying spouse who has a reduced income.


Temporary and permanent spousal support serves completely different purposes and is calculated altogether differently.  Accordingly, the more factually and legally correct presentation to the court will provide the best result for the party.  Conversely, if done incorrectly, the party can suffer adverse financial consequences for years to come.

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