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What Is the Difference Between Temporary & Permanent Spousal Support?

Under California law, a court may award spousal support to help a financially disadvantaged party cover the living expenses in line with the marital standard of living. Courts define the “marital standard of living” to mean the station in life to which the couples became accustomed during their marriage. After divorce, both spouses have a right to live according to the standard of living the couple achieved upon permanent separation in anticipation of divorce, to the extent they are able.

Spousal Support in General

Courts will award spousal support upon proof that the requesting party needs financial assistance to cover their living expenses and that the other spouse has the financial resources to provide for such support.

California Family Code § 4320 requires courts to analyze the following factors when determining issues of spousal support:

  • Each party’s earning capacity
  • The supported party’s marketable skills for employment
  • The extent to which the supported party’s chances of employment have been hindered by periods of unemployment due to the marriage
  • The extent to which the supported party contributed to their spouse’s education and career
  • The supporting party’s ability to pay spousal support
  • Each party’s needs based on the marital standard of living
  • Each party’s assets and liabilities, including separate property
  • The length of the parties’ marriage
  • The supported party’s ability to work without interfering with child care
  • Each party’s age and health
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • The tax consequences of awarding spousal support
  • The balance of hardships to each party
  • The goal that the supported party will become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time
  • The criminal history of an abusive spouse
  • Other factors the court deems just and fair

Temporary Spousal Support

A California court is empowered to order spousal support both during divorce proceedings, and after a divorce is finalized. When a court orders spousal support after a divorce action is filed, but before it is finalized, it is called “spousal support pendente lite”—a Latin phrase meaning “pending litigation.”

The goal of pendente lite spousal support is to secure the status quo of the parties until trial. After filing for divorce, the parties technically remain married until the divorce is finalized. As a result, they still owe each other a legal duty of support until the divorce is resolved.

After finalizing a divorce, the court may issue a spousal support award for a definite amount of time, usually for short term marriages which lasted less than ten (10) years. Typically the duration of a spousal support award is commensurate with about half the length of the parties’ marriage. The amount of the spousal support award parallels the needs of the supported spouse and the financial resources of the supporting spouse.

Permanent Spousal Support

When the court makes a spousal support award for an indefinite period of time, it is considered a “permanent” award of spousal support. An award of permanent spousal support is usually limited to marriages that last for at least ten years. However, depending on the circumstances of each case, a court has the discretion to award permanent spousal support in marriages that lasted less than ten years.

An award for permanent spousal support typically only terminates upon remarriage of the supported spouse or upon either spouse’s death. Additionally, the supported party may terminate or modify the spousal support order if a material change in circumstances justifies altering the order’s terms.

Get Legal Advice from Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara Today

If you are looking for the professional advice of an attorney with experience in California family law matters, you should contact Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara. Our legal team has valuable experience handling various family law cases, including proceedings for the determination of spousal support.

Please call us at (949) 229-8546 or contact us online to arrange for an initial consultation with a member of our highly skilled legal team.