When Is Spousal Support Awarded?

Financial support may be awarded in cases of separation or divorce where one spouse or domestic partner earns more than the other. Determining spousal support (commonly called alimony) involves many factors.

To determine the amount of financial support provided a domestic partner or spouse, the court considers factors outlined in the law, including:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership. From the court's perspective, relationships lasting 10 years or more are considered long term.
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Earnings, earning capacity or job marketability
  • If a spouse must take a job, how it affects the ability to care for children
  • Age and health of both parties
  • Debts and assets, including real property
  • Contributions, including education and career support, of a spouse
  • Tax impacts of spousal support

The court or private judge will weigh these factors, along with several others, before determining what amount of spousal support, if any, should be awarded in a divorce.

Two Stages Of Financial Support

There are two stages of spousal support: temporary and post-divorce financial support.

Temporary spousal support is typically paid after a couple separates, but before a divorce (also called marital dissolution) is finalized. Each state has a formula to calculate support. In California, that formula takes into account both parties' income or earning capacities, tax status and certain deductions.

Post-divorce spousal support is paid once the divorce is finalized. At this stage, the court can no longer use the state formula to calculate spousal support, but must turn to the Family Code. Family Code section 4320 lays out many factors that may be relevant to a divorcing parties' situation.

Resolving Support Payment Problems

Once a spousal support agreement is official, the financial agreement becomes a court order. Failure to make these payments has serious consequences, including wage garnishment and further legal action. If a spouse falls behind on spousal support payments, 10 percent interest per year is added to the balance due. By law, interest charges must be added; a judge cannot stop them.

At Viola Law Firm, we help clients resolve spousal support issues during and after the divorce process. To discuss your situation with a lawyer, call us at 650-532-9389 or send us a message. Our attorneys represent clients throughout northern California from our San Mateo office.