spousal support factors alimonyWhen ordering post-divorce spousal support (alimony) in California, judges are required to consider and weigh each of 14 different spousal support factors.  They are not allowed to take the suggestion of a computer program, as they are able to do when setting pre-divorce “temporary” spousal support.

Couples however can make their own spousal support agreement. They are not required to consider or weigh the 14 spousal support factors. The factors however are sensible. Knowing what they are can help both parties make well-informed and well-considered spousal support decisions.

The 14 Spousal Support Factors

These are the spousal support factors from Family Code Section 4320 judges must consider when ordering post-divorce “permanent” spousal support:

  1. The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:  (a) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment and (b) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.
  2. The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
  3. Ability to pay of the supporting party, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
  4. Needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
  5. Obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
  6. Duration of the marriage.
  7. Ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.
  8. Age and health of the parties.
  9. Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence including consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence.
  10. Immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
  11. Balance of the hardships to each party.
  12. The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.
  13. Any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse.
  14. Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

As regards factor 12, a “reasonable period of time” generally is one-half the length of the marriage, except in the case of a marriage of long duration.  A marriage lasting 10 years or more is presumed to be one of long duration. A judge can decide that a marriage of less than 10 years is one of long duration.