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How Spousal Support is Calculated in California: Factors and Guidelines

by | Dec 15, 2023 | Spousal Support

Spousal support laws are complex and complicated to fully understand. If you have questions about how spousal support is calculated in California, now may be a good time to speak with a skilled attorney to discuss your situation.

If you are seeking spousal support in California, talk with an experienced Divorce lawyer to get your questions answered today.

Basics of Long-Term Spousal Support in California

Marriages and domestic partnerships end, often without either spouse paying spousal support. However, long-term support is more common when the marriage is long, such as 10 years or more, and when one person earns significantly more than the other person.

A judge can make three types of spousal support orders: spousal support, reserve support, and termination.

First, a judge can order an amount of support that one spouse pays another. Second, the court can order reserve spousal support. This may be a current amount of zero, but in the future, the amount could be changed. Third, the judge can end spousal support, also called termination. 

Calculating Spousal Support Guidelines in California

California Spousal Support Guidelines use a typical calculation, called the Santa Clara guideline to estimate temporary spousal support. 

Temporary spousal support can be up to 40% of the payer’s net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. This guideline expires when the divorce decree is finalized. Permanent spousal support may be different

If child support is part of the equation, spousal support is calculated after child support is determined.

Key Assumptions About Spousal Support in California

A basic assumption is that spousal support is intended to last a reasonable amount of time, the time for the spouse to become self-supporting. The longer you have been married, the longer it is assumed that this will take. 

For marriages less than ten years, support will last half the length of the marriage. For marriages of more than ten years, there is no assumption about a reasonable length of time. For example, the person receiving the support may have given up career opportunities for a career to raise children. 

Long-term or indefinite spousal support may last as long as is needed and as long as the other person can pay. Permanent spousal automatically ends when the person receiving it remarries or dies.

Factors a Judge Considers in California Spousal Support

In California, a judge must use a set of factors, called Family Code 4320 factors. These factors inform the judge’s decision about your situation. 

The judge must consider how long you were married, your age and health, your income, and your earning capacity. Earning capacity refers to what you are capable of earning, such as each person’s skills, education, and job market for these skills. The judge may also consider the amount of time and cost it may take to gain skills and education. 

Standard of Living and Lifestyle Factors in California

Further factors include your standard of living while married. This can cover the type of lifestyle as reflected by the type of house you lived in, the car you owned, the types and frequencies of vacations you took, and whether you used credit cards frequently. 

The court considers how much property and debt each spouse has. In looking at support, the judge considers the need and ability to pay. This refers to how much money the person seeking support would need to maintain the same lifestyle during their marriage, and whether the person paying can pay that amount. 

Additional considerations include whether one spouse helped the other with education, career, training, or getting a professional license. The impact of tax laws and if there is a history of abuse during the marriage is considered.

How Children Affect Spousal Support in California

Children are a key factor in spousal support. A judge will evaluate how caring for the children impacted either of your careers.

The court also takes into consideration how working now will impact the children. 

If you and your spouse agree before you go to court, you can write up the agreement. If you cannot agree on long-term support, generally a trial judge will decide. 

Talk To an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

If you are concerned about spousal support, the Law Offices of David M. Lederman is here to help. We are here to guide you through the difficult divorce process.

If you have any questions about spousal support in Antioch, Moraga, and across Contra Costa, Alameda, and Solano Counties, please get in touch. We are happy to talk with you. Call 925-522-8889 or send an email to set up a consultation. We are happy to discuss child custody, spousal support, or other divorce-related issues in California.

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