Temporary v. Permanent Spousal Support

Throughout Del Mar and San Diego County, many divorcing parties are unclear about the concept of “alimony.” In California, the Family Codes and courts use the term “spousal support” instead of “alimony” to reference payments made from one spouse/former spouse to another for his or her financial support. Most parties are aware of the fact that once the divorce is over the court can order one party to pay the other spousal support. However, considering that the divorce process can take years for some litigants, many parties are unsure of what they should do in the mean time.

Temporary Spousal Support: Under the California Family Code, San Diego courts have the authority to make temporary spousal support awards. These awards are called “temporary” because they last only until the divorce is finalized. The purpose of a temporary spousal support award is to maintain the status quo until the time of trial and is intended to be a short-term solution. Based on the limited funds of the parties, it may be impossible for both to maintain the status quo of the marriage. Thus, in this situation, the judge will make an award as close to the status quo as possible. The quick and expedient method of calculating temporary spousal support is called the “guideline” formula. In order to determine guideline support, the judge will input various factors such as the incomes of the parties, tax filing status of the parties and any tax deductions and the formula will produce a guideline amount of support. However, the actual support awarded is within the family court judge’s broad discretion.

Permanent Spousal Support: “Permanent” spousal support is a misnomer. Often, even in long-term marriages, spousal support is not automatically “permanent.” Permanent spousal support simply refers to the spousal support award made at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings (as opposed to temporary support). In order to set permanent spousal support, the court is not permitted to simply use the guideline formula to come up with an amount. Instead, the family court judge will consider all of the factors listed under California Family Code section 4320. These factors include but are not limited to: the paying spouse’s ability to pay, needs of the parties based on the marital standard of living, health of the parties, the obligations and assets of both parties, the tax consequences of support, and any documented evidence of domestic violence. Additionally, the court may consider “any other factors” which would produce a “just and reasonable” result.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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