Steven Fernandez |

Spousal Support

Divorce is always a stressful experience. It becomes more stressful if you are the lower-earning spouse who is trying to make ends meet after the initial separation. This is a common problem in the early phases of separation and divorce. The divorce has been filed, but your spouse isn’t paying you any support. You can’t make ends meet. What do you do?

What is Spousal Support?

In California, you can seek support from a spouse, domestic partner or a long-term partner even if you were never married. Spousal support is also referred to as alimony. The court can order temporary spousal support to keep the party’s finances close to what existed before the split up.

This temporary support can be ordered during the divorce process, before the judgment of divorce is entered. There are also options for filing for spousal support without the need to file a divorce complaint.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can seek spousal support when you file for a restraining order. You can also seek spousal support if you file for a legal separation. In order to receive spousal support or partner support, you must be married or in a domestic partnership.

My Spouse Left Me and Isn’t Paying, How Do I Get Spousal Support?

You don’t have to go to court over this issue if your spouse agrees to pay you support while you are waiting for the divorce to become finalized. If you and your spouse have agreed to an amount, a consent order can be prepared and then filed. If you can’t reach an agreement, you will have to request a hearing in front of a judge so that the proper amount of support can be determined.

At that hearing, a judge will assess what alimony award, if any, should be granted. Spousal support can be defined as temporary support or permanent support. Temporary alimony is support paid during the divorce process. Permanent alimony is support paid after the conclusion of the divorce.

How Much Should the Alimony Payment Be and For How Long?

Permanent alimony and temporary alimony are evaluated by different standards. Temporary spousal support is calculated using formulas that vary by county. Los Angeles County uses the guidelines developed by Santa Clara County.

Using the Santa Clara guidelines, spousal support is calculated by:

  • Identifying 40 percent of the income of the higher-earning spouse, and
  • Subtracting 50 percent of the net income of the spouse in need of support.

If there is a child support order, the payor’s income will be reduced by that child support order.

Permanent spousal support is ordered at the time the divorce is entered. The court will consider the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the needs of each party, and the ability to pay. The court is required to consider 14 factors when making a permanent spousal support order. A judge has the discretion to order spousal support, determine how much should be paid, and for how long.

Of course, temporary support is paid only during the duration of the divorce proceedings. Permanent alimony is set when the divorce is finalized. However, ‘permanent alimony’ is a misleading term. Typically, an end date will be set for permanent spousal support. Very few people are awarded actual permanent alimony.