When it comes to a divorce or legal separation, spousal support is one of the most challenging portions of the matter, alongside child custody issues. Many people do not agree with the idea that they may need to pay spousal support to their former spouse.

In California, spousal support can be negotiated at any time during the divorce or legal separation. It can also take place at the beginning, or near the conclusionof the divorce or legal separation. . Here, we will discuss other important information you should know about spousal support and what you can do to protect your interests.

How Spousal Support Starts

In order for spousal support to be legally established and officially start, there must be a court case.

A spouse or domestic partner can ask the judge to make a spousal support order as part of 1 of these types of cases:

  • Divorce, legal separation, or annulment; or
  • A domestic violence restraining order.

You can ask for spousal support to be paid while your case is going on. This is called a “temporary spousal support order.” Support can also be ordered once the divorce or legal separation becomes final, as part of the final divorce or separation judgment.

How is Spousal Support Calculated

The judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320.

These factors include:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children;
  • The age and health of both people;
  • Debts and property;
  • Whether 1 spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license;
  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • Whether 1 spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and
  • The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws have not been changed to recognize domestic partnerships).

The spousal or partner support order then becomes part of your final divorce or legal separation judgment.

 Changing Spousal Support

Depending on the situation, either spouse or domestic partner might need to change the amount of spousal support that is paid. To ask for a change in the support amount, there needs to be a “change in circumstances.” This means something significant has changed since the spousal or partner support order was made.

Maybe the spouse or partner that was getting support no longer needs it; or the person paying support has had a significant drop in income and can no longer afford the amount of support. Sometimes, the spouse/partner getting support is not making a good faith effort to become self-supporting, so the paying spouse/partner can ask the court to end or change the support order based on this.

Ending Spousal Support

Spousal and domestic partner support usually ends when:

  • A court order or judgment says it ends;
  • One of the spouses or domestic partners dies; or
  • The person getting the support remarries or registers a new domestic partnership.

Protect Your Rights, Seek the Legal Counsel of a Family Law Attorney

Whether you are the party seeking spousal support or the party who believes may need to pay spousal support, consider speaking to a qualified family law attorney in order to protect your rights and interests.

The attorneys at  RM Law Group, LLP have many years of committed experience serving clients dealing with family law matters, including spousal support cases. The firm is committed to ensuring the rights of their clients are upheld in a court of law and that their interests are being protected.