Spousal support, also known as alimony, is awarded in some divorce cases in California when one spouse makes significantly more money than the other. It is a payment from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse to allow the recipient to maintain the standard of life that he or she enjoyed during the marriage. In California, spousal support orders are calculated using the specific facts of each case.
California’s Formula for Calculating Spousal Support
If the courts decide that alimony is appropriate in a divorce or legal separation case, a judge may rely on California’s formula for calculating spousal support to determine the amount to be paid. In general, alimony is calculated in California by subtracting half of the lower earner’s net monthly income from 40 percent of the higher earner’s net monthly income.
For example, if one spouse makes $10,000 per month and the other makes $2,000 per month, the alimony calculation would take half of $2,000 ($1,000) and subtract it from 40 percent of $10,000 ($4,000). In this example, the alimony award would be $3,000. This is the calculation that is often used for temporary spousal support in California.
Temporary vs. Permanent Alimony
Temporary alimony is given to a spouse while the divorce case or legal separation is still pending or being processed. It aims to make the transition from a two-income household to a single-income household less overwhelming for the lower earner. While the courts will expect the recipient to take steps to become self-supportive, he or she can use temporary alimony to pay for his or her needs in the meantime. Temporary spousal support may or may not turn into permanent alimony when a divorce is finalized.
Despite the name, permanent alimony typically does not last forever. It is simply a more permanent order that is arranged as part of a divorce decree. The length of time that a “permanent” alimony order will last depends on the length of the marriage and other factors. In California, if a couple was married for less than 10 years, permanent alimony typically lasts half the length of the marriage. For a marriage that lasted longer than 10 years, however, the alimony order may not have a specific end date.
What Is the Average Alimony Payment in California?
There is no such thing as an average alimony or spousal support amount. Each case is entirely unique, with amounts calculated according to the couple’s specific financial situation. The best way to understand how much your spousal support payment might be worth is by consulting with an attorney.
An alimony lawyer can carefully review the facts of your case and determine how much you or your ex-spouse may have to pay in spousal maintenance using California’s alimony guidelines: 35 to 40 percent of the higher earner’s income minus 40 to 50 percent of the lower earner’s income.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Spousal Support
Whether or not an individual is awarded spousal support, the value of the alimony order and the duration of the agreement all depend on the facts of the case. Several factors are analyzed by the courts when making these decisions, including:
- The length of the marriage
- How much each spouse earns
- The ability of the lower earner to make a living
- The higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay
- Whether the lower-earning spouse sacrificed a career or education to support the other spouse
- Each spouse’s financial needs
- The age and health of each spouse
You may need an attorney in San Diego to help you fight for the spousal support order that you need during your divorce or legal separation case. An attorney can negotiate in and out of court to make sure you receive or are required to pay what is fair and lawful. For more information, contact an attorney at Boyd Law for a consultation.