In California, the court-ordered amount of money that is paid from one spouse or domestic partner to the other is referred to as “spousal support” or “partner support.” It can be paid while the case is going on, called “temporary support,” and it can also be required after the finalization of the divorce or legal separation, called “permanent support.” These terms can be misleading; pre-judgment and post-judgment support are more accurate terms.
Spousal support is a complex issue. Temporary (pre-judgment) support is calculated differently than permanent (post-judgment) support. Temporary support is calculated using the same formula used for calculating child support. It is based on the parties’ incomes. Temporary support can last the duration of the dissolution proceedings.
Permanent support is not calculated using a formula. In fact, it is a violation of state law to base a post-judgment support figure on the formula alone. Permanent support is determined by weighing several factors. These are listed in CA Family Code Section 4320.
So, how long will you have to pay, or be entitled to receive, spousal support? The length of the marriage is one of the biggest factors in determining the duration of a support order. Short-term marriages, less than 10 years, generally see support for half the length of the marriage or less. Long term marriage, 10 years or more, can see support orders ranging anywhere from half the length of the marriage to the payee’s lifetime.
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