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We Are Here To Provide Legal Guidance During Some Of Life’s Most Difficult Times

Understanding Temporary Spousal Or Partner Support

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is one party’s obligation to pay support to the lesser earning spouse/partner.

How Do I Get Temporary Spousal Or Partner Support?

When one spouse or partner is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other spouse or partner, that spouse or partner may file a request for order (form FL-300) requesting support from the other spouse or partner.

The superior courts in Alameda County and Contra Costa County use the “Alameda County Guideline” formula. This guideline formula provides that the spousal support is presumptively 40% of the paying spouse’s net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

The superior courts in the counties of San Francisco, Solano and Santa Clara use the “Santa Clara Guideline” formula. This guideline formula provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of his or her net monthly income reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

A spouse can request the temporary support order to be retroactive to the date the request for support was filed. This means, under California Family Code, you can ask to receive support from the day you file your request, even though the court may not grant the order for months after filing your request. Thus, it is important for you to request spousal support immediately.

Can I Request To Modify Spousal Support?

One or both spouses or domestic partners may request to change an existing support order by showing that there has been a “change in circumstances” since the spousal or partner support order was made. This means something significant has changed since the spousal or partner support order was made.

Events that may qualify as a change of circumstances include the person paying support has had a significant drop in income and can no longer afford the amount of support; the spouse/partner getting support is not making a good faith effort toward being self-supporting; the parties have children together and child support ends; or a spouse/partner who was being supported remarries, and the support needs to end.

My Ex-Spouse Is Living With His/Her New Partner. Can I Stop Paying Spousal Support?

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on which side of the coin you are facing), cohabitation does not prevent a party from receiving spousal support. Instead, cohabitation is considered by most courts as a material change in circumstances to ask for a reduction of spousal support.

Family code section 4323 creates a rebuttable presumption that cohabitation decreases the need for a party to continue to receive the support amount.

Please be aware that cohabitation must be more than living with roommates and sharing expenses. There must be a domestic arrangement that includes a sexual/romantic relationship.

What Is Permanent Or Long-Term Spousal Or Partner Support?

Generally, a spouse or partner may request permanent or long-term spousal or partner support if the parties have been married or have been domestic partners for more than 10 years.

When the judge makes his or her final spousal or partner support order, the judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320.

These factors include:

  • The parties’ standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The parties’ earning capacities
  • The age and health of the parties
  • the obligations and assets of the parties
  • Whether the supported party contributed toward the other party’s education
  • Training or career position
  • Documented evidence of domestic violence
  • Income tax consequences

The court is given wide discretion in determining both the amount and duration of spousal support.

The spousal or partner support order then becomes part of the final judgment and can be enforced by the supported party.

Do not let the term permanent or long-term spousal support fool you. Just like temporary spousal support, permanent or long-term support can be modified at the request of either party upon showing of “change of circumstances.”

How Long Do I Have To Pay Spousal Support?

If the marriage is less than 10 years, the general rule is that the support will last for half of the length of the marriage.

If the marriage is more than 10 years, it is considered to be a long marriage, and the court is less likely to set a termination date on a judgment for spousal support after a long marriage.

Both temporary and permanent or long-term spousal support will end if the supported party remarries, or on the death of either party.

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