Understanding Spousal Support
Spousal support. At this point, since you’ve made it to the website and are reading this article, you are either trying to figure out how to minimize your obligation to pay support or how to maximize your opportunity to obtain support. In fact, what’s important to note here is that spousal support is a very complex matter. And a very heated matter as well. Such questions often emerge: “Why do I have to pay him support?! I’m the woman.” Or, “Really, I have to pay her support even though she has a college degree and refuses work right now?!” It’s obvious, then, that spousal support may be the most contested issued during a divorce. So, let’s see if we can simplify a few things for you to get you started during your investigation.
A good starting point is to think about need vs. ability to pay. To keep this in very simplified form, often this is the lens the court will look through when awarding temporary spousal support. Wait, what do you mean temporary? Could it go away? And, does that mean there is also permanent spousal support too? Yes, and yes to the last two questions.
Temporary spousal support is very different than permanent spousal support. Temporary spousal support can begin (ready for this?) just days after one spouse files for divorce, which could be months or years before the divorce is final. To keep this simplified then, temporary support is before the final judgment, and permanent support is after the final judgment.
Understanding the timeline of the divorce will help: Once a spouse files for divorce with the court, California law will not allow the divorce to be final until at least 6 months have elapsed. A divorce can become final such as when (1) once the spouses agree in writing to such things like how the property will be divided or where the children will live and the judge signs off on this agreement; or(2) the divorce can become final after the judge rules on the parties’ disputed issues at a trial.
However, before the divorce becomes final, one spouse often seeks temporary spousal support. So, how do you get temporary spousal support? Like mentioned above, the court will weigh one spouse’s “need” against the other spouse’s “ability to pay.” That’s pretty much it for temporary support. This is relatively simple hurdle. So, to be blunt, the spouse earning more money will generally pay temporary spousal support.
So, now the bigger question: How much? The judge often will determine the amount of support by using a computer program called a Dissomaster or X-Spouse. That doesn’t help you now to determine what your obligation, or benefit, may be, does it? So, to help you, but to keep this in very simplified form, a support-paying spouse, for example, with no children, and where one spouse is employed, and the other spouse is unemployed, may expect to pay around 30% of his/her salary to the other spouse. You must know that this temporary support can last for months, or even years, until permanent spousal support is awarded.
For this article, though, our discussion is limited to temporary spousal support. Permanent spousal support is much more complex. In fact, a support-seeking spouse must provide proof of 14 different factors outlined in the law. Therefore, such discussion will need to be reserved for another time. Please note that the above information was kept in simplest form to help give you a primer of a situation that is important to know when considering divorce. As many areas of law, the complexity is understood and handled well by an attorney. Thus, it’s helpful to know that an experienced family law attorney is a phone call, or email, away to help provide guidance both before the marriage and at the difficult time of dissolving the marriage.