Spousal support (sometimes called “alimony”) is one of the two areas of financial decision-making required in every divorce. The other is division of assets and debts. When children are involved, decision-making is also required for a parenting plan and child support.
Spousal support often is the most contentious of all of these. Many couples therefore can benefit from outside assistance such as mediation when it comes to resolving alimony.
It is often the last to be decided, whether inside or outside of court. This is because the parenting plan affects the amount of child support and the amount of child support often affects the amount of spousal support. The division of assets and debts can also affect it.
There is no need to have alimony decided by the court. Spouses can come to their own agreement and the court will rarely question or second guess them.
Temporary and Permanent Spousal Support
In the context of the law, there are two types of spousal support: “temporary” which applies until the divorce is final and “permanent” which applies after the divorce. “Permanent” support nowadays is rarely permanent.
The two types have slightly different purposes. The purpose of “temporary” support is to try to help each spouse maintain the marital standard of living until the completion of the divorce. Realistically, except when the payor or both parties have large incomes, maintaining the marital standard living for both spouses is often financially impossible. Sharing the financial pain relatively equally is often a more realistic goal.
The purpose of “permanent” support is to provide financial assistance, if appropriate, as determined by the spouses’ financial circumstances after divorce and the division of their community property.
There is a formula for “temporary” support that is built into several software programs that California judges normally use. Your mediator or attorney should be able to use one of these programs to provide you with the calculated figure. However, there is no requirement for judges to use the calculated amount. Indeed, they shouldn’t do so in cases of unusual ciscumstances.
There is no formula for “permanent” support. Instead the Family Code requires judges to weigh 14 factors when deciding how much to award. Nonetheless, permanent support when decided by a judge tends to be somewhat less than temporary support.