In San Diego and throughout the state of California there are two types of spousal support which can be awarded by a family court judge. The two types of spousal support are temporary (pendente lite) spousal support and permanent (long-term) spousal support. The type of spousal support awarded is dependent on what point in the case the award is made. Often times family law litigants have various questions about spousal support especially after their first spousal support hearing. One of the most frequent questions asked is, "How long will the spousal support order last?"
Prior to entry of Judgment, any spousal support award made by the family court judges will be a "temporary" spousal support order. At the end of a dissolution case, the court will reevaluate the amount of spousal support being paid and make an ongoing "permanent" spousal support order. When parties first separate, one spouse may not have access to community funds and therefore he or she must request a hearing immediately to obtain an order for support. At times, that first rush to judgment can result in a slightly higher or slightly lower amount of support than may be appropriate on a more permanent basis.
In making a "temporary" spousal support order, the family courts in California are not as restricted using discretion than other court systems. For example, many other state court judges are required to apply a specific formula which considers the parties' incomes and various other factors. In California, although many family court judges make spousal support awards using a default formula, they are not required to. In practice, family court judges often refer to the spousal support amount as suggested by guideline formulas and make awards based on that information.
When family court judges make "permanent" spousal support orders, they must consider all of the factors outlined in Family Code § 4320. Most importantly, the court will consider the ability of the supporting spouse to pay support and the need of the supported spouse for spousal support. Family Code § 4320 also lists factors such as the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the health of the parties, and any history of domestic violence. Becoming familiar with these methods for calculating spousal support can be especially helpful for parties' in settlement negotiations. The measuring stick for any proposal in negotiation is what the judge would likely do if the matter were to proceed to court. Therefore, having that information available can assist the parties with proposing and accepting reasonable solutions.