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How is spousal support determined in California?

Spousal support is a significant concern for many divorcing spouses. Couples who are divorcing in California may wonder how spousal support is determined. Spousal support can be ordered on a temporary or permanent, and long-term, basis so it is helpful to understand when it is awarded and how it is determined. There are a variety of factors the family law court typically looks at to determine spousal support.

The court will look at the length of the marriage or domestic partnership; the resources each of the partners needs to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage or domestic partnership; what each of the spouses or partners can contribute, which includes their earnings and earning capacity, to maintain the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage or domestic partnership; the debts and property of the couple; the age and health of both spouses or partners; and the impact of working and caring for any children.

In addition, the court also evaluates whether one spouse or partner contributed to the other obtaining education, training, a career or professional license; whether one spouse or partner was impacted by unemployment or caring for children; the tax implications of spousal support; and whether or not there was any domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership. Spousal support determinations can be complex but because of the importance spousal support carries for many divorcing spouses, it can help to understand how it is determined.

Whenever possible, divorcing couples are encouraged to reach agreements that are best for them and their family but when that is not possible, the family law process provides resources to help. Understanding how important divorce-related issues are resolved by the court can help minimize anxiety and the stress that sometimes accompanies the divorce process and may lead to a smoother divorce process for divorcing couples.

Source: California Courts, "Spousal/Partner Support," Accessed Jan. 3, 2017

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