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Factors Affecting Permanent Spousal Support Awards in California

Posted on in Spousal Support

Los Gatos, CA divorce alimony attorneyOne of the trickiest issues to negotiate in a divorce can be the matter of spousal support, or alimony. When a couple has enjoyed a comfortable standard of living for many years, with one party being the primary income provider and the other taking primary responsibility for home and family needs, the issue of spousal support can be as important as the division of assets and retirement savings.  

When a couple is unable to reach agreement on the question of spousal support payments, and the couple does not have a premarital or postmarital agreement that addresses the subject, then a judge must decide whether to order spousal support and, if so, in what amount. This is a very complex decision, requiring the court to study not only the couple’s assets and debts but also their lifestyle, occupational skills, income-earning capacity, childcare needs, and more. 

Note that this article will discuss only “permanent” spousal support,” that is, payments that will be made by one party to the other after a marital settlement agreement has been finalized. This is separate from the “temporary” spousal support that may be required while a divorce is pending. 

The term “supported party” as used here means the spouse who is requesting support payments. This typically refers to a spouse who, by mutual agreement, sacrificed their own educational and career opportunities in order to focus their energy primarily on home and family care. The term “supporting party” refers to the spouse who will be making support payments to their former partner.

Spousal Support Consideration Factors in California Law

Section 4320 of the California Family Code lists many factors that the court must consider when making decisions about spousal support, including:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of each party
  • The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage
  • The earning capacity of each party to maintain that standard of living
  • The debts and assets of each party, including separate, non-marital property
  • The extent to which the supported party’s earning capacity has been impaired by their devotion to family care and lack of employment outside the home, and the extent to which that earning capacity can be increased if given short-term financial assistance for job training
  • The extent to which the supported party contributed to the advancement of the supporting party’s education or career
  • The needs of dependent children and which party has primary custody of them
  • Any history of domestic violence by the supporting party against the supported party, which would weigh in favor of the supported party
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • The balance of the hardships to each party

As you can see, it can be quite difficult for a court to make a wise and fully informed decision on the matter of spousal support. Rather than leave such an important issue to a court’s discretion, the two parties may prefer to settle the matter between themselves. An experienced divorce mediation lawyer can be invaluable in this situation. 

Consult a Los Gatos, CA Divorce and Spousal Support Lawyer

Before you agree to a marital settlement with or without spousal support, discuss your situation with an experienced Los Gatos alimony lawyer. Attorney Benita Ventresca has mediated dozens of divorce agreements over several decades in family law practice in Santa Clara County, and she can help you ensure that your financial best interests are protected in your final divorce agreement. For a free consultation, call 408-395-8822.


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