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Spousal Support Attorney (Alimony)

Spousal Support

What is called alimony in many states (which it was called in California until 1969) is known here as “spousal support“. It is also known in some jurisdictions as “maintenance”.

If there is need shown by one party, and the ability to pay by the other party, the court is likely to award spousal support.

How much? For how long?

Spousal Support

It depends. Keep in mind there is “temporary” and there is “permanent” spousal support.

“Temporary” is the award made before final judgment is entered. At judgment (trial or settlement), the spousal support is considered “permanent”. That does not mean it is forever, just that the factors the court considers are quite different.

At the temporary level, the judge is pretty much looking at temporary financial need/ability to pay. This might be done by looking at the so-called “guideline spousal support” (although there is no actual such guideline formally adopted by law). At the permanent level, the judge is required to consider ONLY the elements of Family Code section 4320 and the standard of living established during the marriage.  The judge is prohibited from using the computer formula.

The elements of F.C. section 4320 include the length of the marriage, the income of the parties, need and ability to pay, tax consequences, health, history of domestic violence and others, all as relates to what we call the “marital standard of living”.

How long? A marriage of 10 years or more is statutorily considered “long term”. Less than 10 years is “short”. Generally, a marriage of less than 10 years will find spousal support ending in half the length of the marriage (but not always). A long term marriage will generally result in the court declining to set a termination date in advance.  If over 10 years, “long term”, does not mean spousal support will be paid forever.  There are tools and strategies available to shorten, or lengthen, the term of support.