Throughout a Family Law case, the Court may make several orders over various matters. One of these matters is spousal support, and there can be a significant difference between initial “temporary” spousal support orders, and permanent spousal support orders. This article will generally discuss how the Court should analyze either request.
Temporary spousal support is typically sought, and ordered, near the outset of a case. For temporary orders, the Court can use the DissoMaster software (or comparable software) to calculate the amount of support due, very similarly to how guideline child support is calculated. This means the Court can enter each party’s gross monthly income, along with any allowed deductions, and let the software calculate a support amount. This method is certainly faster because the legal analysis required for permanent support (discussed below) is much more involved. While the Court can merely rely on the DissoMaster calculations for temporary spousal support orders, the Court also has the authority to examine the 4320 factors to set spousal support, even on a temporary basis.
When the Court orders permanent spousal support, the Court must consider the Family Code 4320 factors. These factors are listed in Family Code section 4320, subsections (a) through (m.) Each factor must be evaluated and weighed. There may not be information relating to every one of the fourteen 4320 factors. Often, a few of the factors will be relevant to determine a permanent spousal support amount. We will discuss two of the factors which come up in almost every spousal support case.
The first factor is gross monthly earnings, or earning capacity, of both parties. “Gross income” means income, from almost any source, before it is taxed. This helps the Court determine if either party can afford to pay the other any support. It also helps the Court determine if there is a “need” for spousal support.
The second factor which is critical is the “marital standard of living.” This factor tried to accurately estimate the financial condition of the marriage, by looking at things like discretionary spending, use of debt, and general financial choices made during the marriage. This factor also helps the Court determine the “need” for spousal support.
The duration of the marriage is also an important consideration. California has determined that any marriage over (10) ten years in duration is a “long marriage.” In long marriages, the duration of the marriage will be very important is setting the length of the spousal support payments and the termination date.
Needless to say, the issues of spousal support can be very complex and involve many facts. If you have questions about support obligations in your San Diego Family Law case, contact the Law Offices of Scott & Matteson Family Law by calling (858) 974-4900. Scott & Matteson Family Law is a Certified Family Law Specialist with more than 35 years of experience.