Spousal Support and Marital Standard of Living

What is spousal support or alimony?
Spousal support or alimony is the amount of support money that the court orders one spouse to pay another spouse each month after the marriage has ended. California courts call these payments spousal support, rather than the commonly used word of alimony (although they are the same thing). The purpose of these support payments are so that the support-receiving spouse can maintain the same standard of living that both spouses were accustomed to during the marriage.

What does the court look at to determine the spousal support or alimony amount?
The court considers Family Code Section 4320 when determine the spousal support amount. The goal of spousal support or alimony is to allow both spouses to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. Here are some of the factors that the court will look at:

– The earning capacity of both parties.

– The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

– The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

– The duration of the marriage.

– The ability of the supported party to find employment.

– The age and health of the parties.

– Documented history of any domestic violence.

– The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
– The balance of the hardships to each party.

What is “standard of living?”
There is no exact dollar amount that represents the standard of living of a couple during marriage. Rather, standard of living refers to the lifestyle of the parties during their marriage. Some considerations include the parties income, comfort, material things, and necessities available to the spouses during marriage.

For how long does a spouse have to pay spousal support or alimony?Typically, the support paying spouse will have to do so until the death or remarriage of their former spouse. However, in California, if a marriage lasts less than ten years it is possible that the court orders spousal support or alimony for a period equal to one half of the length of marriage. If a marriage lasts longer than ten years, the court may not set a date to which spousal support or alimony will end. It is important to understand that depending on the facts of your case, a judge may order support differently.

What if our marriage was short term, can I still get spousal support?
You may still be entitled to spousal support even though you were married for a short period of time. In some instances, the court will award spousal support or alimony for a period of time equal to half the length of the short term marriage.

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