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When Is Permanent Spousal Support Appropriate in a California Divorce?

Posted on in Spousal Support

Santa Clara County permanent alimony attorneyWhen a couple decides to divorce, one issue that can be difficult to negotiate is the payment of spousal support, also known as alimony. You might think that a high-earning spouse will automatically have to pay monthly support to a spouse who has not been earning a paycheck or whose earnings have been substantially lower. However, California law on this issue is fairly complex. 

While child support payments are determined by state-mandated guidelines, and there is a basic formula used to compute “temporary” spousal support payments that may be required while a divorce is pending. However, there is no simple formula for post-divorce, “permanent” spousal support payments. (“Permanent” is in quotes because the duration of support payments will be defined in the final settlement agreement. The agreement could, for example, require payments for the supported party’s lifetime, until their remarriage, or only for a specific number of years.)

Generally speaking, the objective of temporary support is to enable each party to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. However, Sections 4320-4339 of the California Family Code provide a long list of factors that the court must consider when deciding whether to order permanent spousal support, in what amount, and for what length of time.

When Is Permanent Spousal Support Appropriate or Required?

When one spouse has been out of the workforce for a number of years, it could take months for them to find gainful employment. Additional education or re-training may be necessary. In many of these cases, spousal support may be necessary to help the person become self-supporting again.

If you have children at home, you and your spouse may agree that one of you should be at home with the children most of the time. Spousal support will ensure that this parent’s financial needs are met while they are caring for the children.

A permanent or temporary disability could be another reason a spouse cannot immediately go back to work and become self-supporting. Spousal support can address the needs of a spouse until the time that they are able to return to work.

Ideally, a couple will work with their attorneys or use divorce mediation to determine how much a supported spouse should receive on a monthly basis and for how long. However, if the parties cannot agree, the court will make that determination.

When Is Permanent Spousal Support Not Appropriate or Required?

A California court will generally not issue an order for spousal support when:

  • Each spouse has sufficient assets and/or income from employment to “maintain the standard of living established during the marriage” (California Family Code section 4322). 
  • The couple signed a prenuptial agreement which states that there would be no spousal support in the event of a divorce, as long as the terms of California law on premarital agreements are met (California Family Code section 1612).
  • The spouse requesting support has been convicted of domestic violence or attempted murder against their spouse (California Family Code sections 4324-4325). 

Contact a Los Gatos, CA Divorce and Spousal Support Lawyer

If you are concerned about paying or receiving spousal support as part of a divorce settlement agreement, be aware that there is no simple solution to this issue. Representation by an experienced Los Gatos alimony lawyer is the best way to ensure that your long-term financial needs are met. Attorney Benita Ventresca has decades of experience in divorce cases and is skilled at mediating agreements on difficult issues such as spousal support. To schedule a free consultation, call 408-395-8822.


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