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Factors Considered to Determine Spousal Support

Spousal support is one of many heavily litigated issues in a dissolution matter. A lot of factors are considered to determine what amount, if any, should be awarded for spousal support.

Spousal support awards can be categorized as temporary or permanent. Pursuant to Family Code 3600, temporary spousal support, also known as “pendente lite” spousal support, is awarded for the duration of the dissolution or legal separation case and until a Final Judgment has been entered. It aims to preserve the status quo of the marriage by allowing a party to maintain the lifestyle built during the marriage.

In order to obtain a temporary spousal support order, the party in need must request a hearing on the issue, and the court will determine whether an award is warranted after considering the needs of the party requesting support and the ability of the other party to pay support in the context of the marital standard of living. Additionally, according to Marriage of Wittgrove, the Court may also consider factors delineated in Family Code section 4320, as described below. These temporary awards can be modified as necessary given the needs of the supported party and the ability to pay of the supporting party.

Permanent spousal support is awarded in the Final Judgment, at the end of the case. Generally, pursuant to Family Code Section 4330, in a judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court may order a party to pay an amount for the support of the other party for a period of time that is just and reasonable, based on the standard of living established during the marriage, and the factors delineated in Section 4320. The court may advise the supported party to make reasonable efforts in becoming self-supporting depending on the circumstances.

The court is required to consider the following Section 4320 factors when awarding permanent spousal support:

  • The extent to which each party’s earning capacity is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account the marketable skills of the supported party, and the extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties;
  • Extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party;
  • Supporting party’s ability to pay spousal support;
  • Needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Obligations and assets of each party;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party;
  • Age and health of the parties;
  • History of domestic violence;
  • The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party;
  • Balance of the hardships to each party;
  • Criminal conviction of an abusive spouse (which reduces or eliminates support);
  • Goal that the supported party be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time; and
  • Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable

The issue of spousal support is complicated. If you need help in determining what you may be entitled to, or what you may be ordered to pay, contact the family law department at Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara LLP today.