Do you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have significantly different incomes? Did one of you work, while the other stayed home to take care of the family? Did you give up your education career to help your spouse pursue theirs? If so, spousal support will probably be a factor in your divorce. You and your spouse will have to agree on the terms of support before your divorce can be finalized.

How is spousal support calculated? What factors are most important when determining an appropriate award of alimony? These are important questions if you’re considering a divorce. Our attorneys provide some answers to help you understand your rights.

Purpose of Spousal Support

After a divorce, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to be unable to support themselves financially. Spousal support, which is also known as alimony, is a way to help a lower-earning spouse become self-supporting after the split.

Alimony is intended to help the lower-earning spouse get back on their feet. Payments are made until they can generate an income that supports their newly-single life. It’s a way to make sure that a spouse isn’t left without the means to live after a divorce.

In most cases, spousal support is a temporary solution to financial instability. The duration of an award of spousal support typically depends on how long the marriage lasted. The longer the marriage, the longer a spouse can reasonably expect to receive spousal support. There are also times when spousal support orders can be permanent. Spouses may receive support for life if a court believes that they will never become self-supporting due to health, age or disability.

Calculating Spousal Support

Spousal support is awarded to help the lower-earning spouse maintain their standard of living after divorce. This standard is the lifestyle that they become accustomed to while they were married. Support should help the spouse maintain that lifestyle until they are able to get back on their feet, financially-speaking.

Many factors are used to determine an appropriate award of spousal support.

Present and Future Earning Capacity: One of the primary factors in determining spousal support is each spouse’s earning capacity. How much should each spouse be able to earn given their education, experience, age, and seniority? How will the ability to earn income change in the coming years?

Ability to Pay Support: Just because one spouse earns more than another doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll have to pay support. The higher-earning spouse may have debts or financial commitments that significantly reduce their income. The higher-earning spouse may also be responsible for child support payments. Spousal support is always calculated after child support obligations are taken into consideration.

Contributions to the Marriage: Why are there discrepancies in income and earning capacity? Did one spouse work to bring in an income while the other stayed home to take care of the family? If you are requesting spousal support, it’s important to highlight your contributions to the family. While these contributions may not have been financial, they still have value.

Sacrifices For the Marriage: Did you give up your job or education to support your spouse? This can be used to help establish a reason for any discrepancy in income and demonstrate your need for support.

Financial Needs of Each Spouse: Spousal support is typically only awarded when there is a demonstrated need for financial assistance. After a divorce, a spouse may have new financial burdens. For example, a newly-divorced spouse may no longer have health care and need to purchase a plan. New financial burdens could significantly reduce a spouse’s ability to maintain their standard of living. These needs will be taken into account when support is calculated.

Duration of the Marriage: In most cases, the longer the marriage, the more a spouse can expect to receive in financial support.

  • Marriage < 10 years: Duration of support is typically one-half of the length of the marriage. (e.g., Married 8 years, support ordered for 4)
  • Marriage > 10 years: Support ordered for as long as the receiving spouse needs financial assistance.

Health and Age: Health and age may influence a spouse’s ability to support themselves after a divorce. If a court believes that a spouse is unlikely to generate an income that will be sufficient, it may order a more substantial award of support.

History of Domestic Violence: Victims of domestic violence often suffer physically, emotionally, and financially. Abuse can adversely affect a spouse’s ability to generate a self-sufficient income. Courts will be more inclined to order spousal support if there is a verified history of abuse.

In addition to these factors, the court will also consider any other relevant information. It will also try to project how long it should take the spouse who is receiving support to become self-sufficient. Orders for spousal support will typically not exceed this projected timeframe.

Are you struggling to negotiate spousal support in your divorce? Hiring an attorney can help you get the best possible result in your case. Call our Los Angeles family law attorneys to schedule your free consultation today.